Right now, if I asked you, “how are you?” I imagine the answer will depend on where you are when you are reading this.
The answer, while always personal will be generally impacted these days, let’s call them the Delta Days, by the level and length of lockdown you are experiencing. That, and the restrictions which are keeping you from doing what you enjoy and spending time with those you love.
If you've been feeling in a bit of a funk and you're starting to worry about your health and wellbeing, you are not alone. But how do we implement change when everything seems out of our control?
Research shows that the key to getting into better physical health, to improving our sleep, diet or exercise, is to create habits and routines around these things. Intentional, healthy habits around our sleep, diet and exercise, however, aren’t always easy to form.
Perhaps you have wondered: ‘Why don’t I lose the weight I’d like to lose?’ or ‘Why haven’t I been able to stick to my new running routine?’ or ‘Why am I finding it so difficult not to look at my phone right up until when I go to bed, even though I’ve promised myself I’d stop a dozen times?’ Why do we often say these things to ourselves but seldom implement them?
There are several reasons for this, a common one being that many of us start out too big, like deciding to stop smoking or drinking cold turkey, without taking the steps needed to set ourselves up for success. Here are out tips for forming healthy habits:
1. Attach a new habit to an existing one.
For example, you can attach a new one-minute mindfulness meditation practice to your existing habit of having a morning coffee, or, if you don’t drink coffee, to your routine of brushing your teeth.
2. Start small.
The author of the book ‘Tiny Habits’, Professor BJ Fogg, suggests starting with smaller, defined habits and then building on them. For example, starting out by taking a short daily walk (rather than a 20–30 minute run) is most likely a smarter beginning to a new exercise habit.
3. Do it every day.
A study, published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, showed that it took an average time was 66 days to form a new habit! The lesson is that habits take a long time to create, but they form faster when we do them more often.
4. Make it easy.
A research psychologist at the University of Southern California, Wendy Wood, writes about sleeping in her running clothes to make it easier to roll out of bed in the morning, slip on her running shoes and go for her scheduled run.
5. Reward yourself.
Watching your favourite TV series on the treadmill can help reinforce an exercise habit.
6. Engage a friend.
Wherever possible, engage a friend. Doing healthy habits with others engages and strengthens our social wellbeing, producing a powerful combination effect.