Mind and Matter: Forming Healthy New Habits

By nature, people are creatures of habit. Whether or not we realize it, we rely on routines to get us through the day. More than half of the things we do every day are repetitious behaviors. Think about it. Chances are that you have the same morning routine in order to get to work on time and likely the same evening routine as you wind down your day. Without making the conscious effort or planning for a change, you’re likely to do the same thing you did the day before.

Forget about Timelines

You may have heard that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. Or perhaps you’ve heard the magic number is 30, 40, 60 or even more than 250 days for a new action to become a habit. No wonder it can be difficult for people to create a change! Try taking thing one day at a time.

How long it takes to form a new habit largely depends on the person’s willingness to make a change and the difficulty of the change. For instance, if you want to create a habit of standing at your desk a certain number of hours each day or taking a 30-minute walk during your lunch hour, it may take three or four weeks before that action becomes part of your routine. When you’re forming a healthy new habit, focus less on how long it will take to achieve it and more on the small changes you can make to reach your goal.

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Training and Cheerleading

Forming new habits takes more than a desire to change; it requires mental toughness and consistent, conscious action. Your brain requires constant proof that the action you want to take is achievable and sustainable. If your brain thinks that the new habit will hurt you or make you uncomfortable then it will create reasons for you to stay where you are. Our minds are extremely powerful and they can propel us forward or keep us rooted in stagnation.

Too often we focus on making a mistake when we create a new habit. We miss a day of exercise, we forget to drink the glass of water after breakfast, or neglect to take a 10-minute stretch break at work. It’s easy to become discouraged when we forget or feel like we are failing.

So how can you form new habits when the road looks too long?

  • Recognize that you can’t do this alone. Find someone you can confide in. Seeking out social support is scary but necessary for success.
  • Use visual reminders such as notes, of the habit you want to create.
  • Start with small changes so you may see the proof that your new habit is a good change.  (Remember, your brain needs that proof!)
  • Track your changes, whether it be journaling the changes, using the Ergo Impact Healthy Workplace Reminder App, or talking to your social support.
  • Dump the expectation of timelines; give yourself to work at your own pace and make mistakes.

Will Durant said,  “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”   

If we want to form a new habit we must repeatedly work at it until it no longer feels like work.

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