Wellness, and health to a large extent, comes down to lifestyle (strictly speaking there’s also genetics, age, luck, and some other factors but since we cannot control those factors, we focus on lifestyle, which we can manage). Healthy lifestyles are all about healthy habits. Most of us have a fairly good idea of the sort of habits we need to or at least would like to develop – for some it’s about weight loss and nutrition, for others exercise is the top priority, many of us struggle with stress and life balance issues, while some have chronic conditions or problem-habits to manage. Identifying the habits we need (and do not need) is one thing, but how do we develop these habits and even more importantly, how do we maintain these health-supporting habits? Here are some ideas on this key question…
THINK ABOUT IT – We live in a fast-paced world where everything is “instant” and “real-time” and “now, right now” but some things take time, at least to do properly. In order to develop a solid sustainable habit you need to think about it first. Why are you doing this (no, really, honestly)? How will you do it? When? With who? What are the obstacles to success and how will you manage them? A bit (quite a bit actually) of planning and careful thought, ahead of time, is perhaps the biggest predictor of success in the healthy-lifestyles game.
LONG TERM – Almost all experts agree that real sustainable lifestyle change requires long-term (life-long in many cases) behaviour change. Not “2 week quick fixes” or “21 days to size 8” or “one hour to understanding your life balance”. We really need to accept this truth. We need to embrace the long-term nature of healthy living, and it starts with knowing that our healthy habits will almost always need to be long-term if they are to make a difference.
SLOWLY – Having acknowledged the long-term nature of healthy living, we also need to know that the changes we are looking for will come, but they will not come overnight. Slow steady progress is possible, realistic, and almost always more sustainable than sudden dramatic massive change.
PRIORITISE – It’s hard to change. We should be careful to invest our energy and effort into changes that really matter. This is partly about choosing what is truly important to us but also choosing what our health needs most. It’s not really all that smart to invest huge effort in drinking more water if we still eat fast-foods daily – it would be smarter to first focus on the (more important) fast foods before tackling the lesser issue of water-intake (not unimportant, just less important). This requires careful consideration to make sure we do not simply choose the issues that seem “easiest” but rather make an honest effort to prioritise our health & wellness.
SET TARGETS – It’s well known that goals & targets are motivational for most of us. So do set yourself goals. Write them down too. But make sure the goals are realistic – a goal should be a challenge, yes, but one you can actually see yourself succeeding with. Reasonable stretch-targets are what we want here.
ENJOY – Life is a one-time thing. Life is way-too-short to be miserable. So before you set about developing healthy habits, ask yourself if it’s worth it, really? If you’re not clear that the changes are worthwhile and positive, and you’re willing to make sacrifices to achieve your goals, don’t start. You want to be happy and to enjoy life – your lifestyle choices should support that, not fight it. If you do not think you’ll enjoy the habits and the choices you make (or at least find the benefits well worth the sacrifices), you’re likely to fail, so rather rethink them now.
So there are some thoughts on how you might make healthy habits stick. We’re sure the list is incomplete and we’re sure you have ideas to share, so please comment below and we’ll all learn together.