We all dream of a life in which we are more fit and productive: We wake up earlier, we eat healthier, we work out more often and get more things done during the day without suffering from any chronic pains or bad health conditions. But few of you actually live it.
You do your best to make that vision a reality: you follow diets, you adopt workout plans, but after a short period of time you find yourself falling back into the same negative routines.
Change is difficult, and no matter how much you hate to admit it, you enjoy the comfort those old habits give you; you love how they don’t require any efforts or additional energy. But later the guilt comes in. You start feeling ashamed of the bad decisions you made. You lose hope and maybe you even try to convince yourself that it is too late for you and that you are simply not meant for the lifestyle you want. Old habits are hard to kill.
How to get over that? It all starts in your head. Rewiring your brain to shift the focus from hating the negative patterns to developing new healthy ones is the ultimate way to drastic change. To have a healthy lifestyle, you must first develop the right mindset for it.
Fortunately, we gathered for you today 4 strategies that are guaranteed to teach you exactly how to master your mindset and make a change that lasts forever.
1. Slow, but steady. Start small, REALLY small. Just. Get. Started. The effect of taking baby steps will compound and make you take bigger ones. Be disciplined and stay determined. Do not wait for motivation to knock at your door. Do it anyways, even on the days you don’t feel like it. And what is one of the best ways to get moving? That’s by following The 5 Second Rule:
« If you have an impulse to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill the idea (… ) Because when you physically move, your brain starts to build new habits (… ) You are in the act of building new habits and erasing existing ones. »
This rule, stated by the author and motivational speaker Mel Robbins, is a form of metacognition that allows you overcome the tricks your brain plays to distract you, by turning on your prefrontal cortex. The neuroscientist and researcher at Yale University Amy Arnsten explains that the 5-4-3-2-1-Go! countdown activates that brain area responsible of planning and decision-making. It matters also that you set goals for yourself on the long term. These goals will help you create sustainable habits. The motivation will come along when the changes become more and more noticeable.
2. Understand How Habits Work. Habits are formed through a very simple, yet very strong series of actions Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Charles Duhigg calls: The Loop. In his book The Power Of Habit, he says:
« First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is Worth remembering for the future. Over time, this loop becomes more and more automatic. The cue and reward become intertwined until a powerful sense of anticipation and craving emerges. »
This means that if you want to change your habits, you have to follow the same rules that made them. First, start by identifying the negative habits you have. Identify the trigger behind them, the behavior that follows and the reward you feel. Then, try to implement a healthy behavior to which you accord the same trigger and reward. Remind yourself more often of the reward and repeat this loop until the old habit is erased and the healthy one becomes ingrained in your routine. And last, be patient. Keep in mind that forming a new habit takes 66 days on average according to a study from University College (London, 2000).
3. Track Your Progress, No Matter How Small. Keep an eye on the progress you are making. Use a calendar and mark the days you follow the healthy habits, this trick will not only inform you on the days you are making a progress, it will also motivate you not the break the chain. But in case you miss a day where you don’t perform the healthy habit, do not quit. Missing one day will have no effect on your long term results.
4. Enjoy The Process. We all know that change is hard, but by rewarding yourself and celebrating each small victory, you will find yourself more likely to stick with the healthy behavior. Acknowledge your achievements and find happiness in the healthy lifestyle you are now living, for it is the ultimate way to make it last forever. And remember, it is never too late to live the life you want!