Why break the habit of a lifetime?

I am currently learning about the science of habits and have become a little bit obsessed with how powerful they are in shaping ourselves and our lives both positively and negatively.

When we think of habits we often attribute them to a negative such as smoking, drinking, swearing, over-eating etc. Even when looking at definitions for the word "habit" they all sound negative:

- a settled or regular practice, especially one that is hard to give up.

- an addictive practice, especially one of taking drugs

But, in reality, habits make up our "every day". They are what shapes our daily / weekly / monthly routines. They impact on how we react to situations, how we interact with people, how we present ourselves, how we work, how we relax, what we eat & drink, our interests...... the list goes on.

Habits positively impact our lives in many ways and becoming aware of our current habits, good and bad can be a key element of achieving any goals we are setting for ourselves.

Goal setting is a tool we often use when we want to lose weight or get fitter. It works by making us more specific and detailed about what we want to achieve. For example: "I am going go lose 6kg by my birthday by going on this diet" By being more specific and setting a timeframe the goal is more likely to be achieved.

Often though this goal can still seem unobtainable. Once you've been working hard at your diet for 2 weeks you can start to get impatient to see results, see previous blog, not to mention hungry!! And motivation to continue starts to wane. It's at this point that the power of habits can come into play.

Imagine you are at the bottom of a very long flight of stairs, you know you want to get to the top as quickly possible. But how do you best do that? Do you release your inner Hussein Bolt and sprint up? I don't know about you but I think I'd last about 2 minutes and then give up with exhaustion!! How about taking multiple steps at a time? That sounds great to start with but then your glutes and knees start to disagree as all the pressure is on them.

What about taking one step at a time at a steady pace? No pausing, no giving up, no sore muscles, no over exertion. These steps are our habits.

After setting your specific goal have a think and write a list of your current daily habits. Think about the day-to-day behaviours like waking up, brushing teeth etc. write them down. Think about all of your positive habits & behaviours all of the things you currently do that will get you closer to your goal, write them down. Now think about any habits or behaviours you have that you feel are getting in your way and holding you back. Write them down.

Becoming aware of our habits is the first step, we can't change anything if we don't know about it.

Now you can have a look and think about what habits you could introduce, change or stop. Remember we are thinking small changes. For example:

"When I set my alarm I am going to place it away from my bed so I can't press the snooze button"

"When I'm making my breakfast I'm going to chop some vegetables for my morning snack".

"When I am eating the last apple/banana/carrot I am going to write it on a list so that I can buy more"

These changes may not seem like much, but together they enable a bigger change. By getting up on time you are giving yourself more time to get ready in the mornings and therefore time to eat breakfast and prepare a healthy snack. By keeping a list of the items you need to buy as you use them you will ensure you always have healthy snacks available to you. These three small and simple habits will help you to maintain your diet and achieve your goal.

Small changes create a big impact.

For more information or help with your fitness and nutrition goals contact Sian Rickard Personal Training.

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