Senior man working to adopt a new habit

How to Successfully Adopt a New Healthy Habit

Bethesda Health | February 19, 2020

A two-year-old girl cries as she sits in front of a blank background screen while a photographer awaits the optimum “photogenic moment” to snap her picture. The child’s parents nervously pace behind the camera. The little girl is crying relentlessly as her father tells her she will not receive a lollipop until she stops and smiles. Unfamiliar with the concept of delayed gratification, the child continues to wail.

This little girl is not much different from many adults, especially when it comes to our health.

What Motivates Us?

What successfully motivates us to do what we need to do?

Forming new health-related habits is easy to logically consider. For example, we may know the need to lose weight and improve our health, but putting in the effort to achieve these and other healthy goals can be difficult.

Experts recommend making new health habits “fun”. However, the delayed payoff of healthier habits is not immediate. We want the lollipop now. Using the losing weight example again, we want to see the scale move dramatically downwards in a couple of days, and our strength and stamina to increase by the day after tomorrow. As all of who have tried already know, it doesn’t work that way.

Redefining fun requires a longer perspective along with some thought and preparation.

Change Your Environment

To ease into healthier habits, change your environment. To start an exercise program, for example, set aside a time and a place to exercise. It may be preferable to work out at home because you don’t have to drive to the gym and back. A room in your house provides an easier, no-excuses place to work out. Simplify the process so there is one less barrier to overcome.

What’s the Immediate Payoff?

If you are looking to your bathroom scale for instant gratification or being able to do a couple of more repetitions of an exercise within a couple of days, you will probably be disappointed. Seeing the effects of healthy habits, such as an improved diet or enhanced physical capabilities, require time.

Experts say it may take many months to make a behavior a habit. Eventually, you may reach the stage where, if you do not exercise or work on your health in a given day, you actually feel you have cheated yourself.

What you should take away from each day is the satisfaction that you are putting in the work to improve yourself.

Enlist Help

Every outside source you can employ to help you become healthier is fair game. Feel free to post motivational quotes about the importance of fitness where you can conveniently see them. Join a group that shares your healthy goals. Invite family members and friends into the mix to form support groups in your efforts.

Remember, however, that what you are doing is about your own health. You are not losing weight, quitting smoking, or managing your diabetes to please someone else. To be successful, you need to keep focusing on why you are doing this for you.

Set Attainable Goals and Expectations

If your doctor says you need to lose 50 pounds, don’t make that your goal. Make losing a pound a week for a year your goal. Setting smaller, achievable goals allows you to celebrate and reconfirm your dedication. If the scale doesn’t move as quickly as you want it to, don’t become discouraged. Celebrate small victories during your journey to healthier habits and goals, and remind yourself that you are changing a long-term lifestyle, not making a temporary sacrifice.

Climb Back on the Horse

There will be setbacks. You will eat what you shouldn’t or skip an exercise session. You may even do exactly what you are supposed to be doing and not see any results. It’s tempting to give up, but this is when you need to be tough and resilient. If you have let things slide, forgive yourself and start again. Dedication doesn’t mean perfection. It means persistence. Don’t lose sight of what you are trying to do and why it is important.

Stick with Positive Motivation

Negative motivation involves dreading the bad things that will happen if you do not change: “If I don’t lose weight, I will hate the way I look and feel.”

Positive motivation means looking forward to the changes you want: “If I lose weight, I’ll have more energy and I will look better.”

Negative motivation works, but negative thoughts are draining. Positive motivation is uplifting and more beneficial to maintaining healthy habits.

Forming new habits can be challenging, but with these suggestions, we believe you can do it! For more tips on creating a healthier lifestyle, check out the Health & Wellness category on our blog.

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