Once we make a decision to improve our lifestyle, it is important to be able to execute a plan so that we are successful and meet our goal. Planningfor this change in habit is as important as changing the habit it self. It is the key that will lead to a successful lifestyle change. Below are some tips on making healthy lifestyle changes, or form new habits, in 2013.
- Make sure the new habit you want to create is specific and measurable. For example, a habit of “drinking morewater” is insufficient whereas a habit of “drinking 6 glasses of water a day” is easier to do and measure your success.
- Do it in the same place, same time, and same surroundings – if possible, for the first few weeks. You need to set up reminders to help you remember the action at the time you want to do it or you may end up at the end of the day remembering that you were meaning to start your new habit but forgot. When cues like time of day, place and circumstances are the same in each case it is easier to stick to your new habit (e.g. taking vitamins after brushing your teeth). During the time before the action becomes a habit, you will need to use these external reminders. Make it easy for yourself to remember what you are trying to do: certain ritual times (waking, leaving the home, before turning on the TV) help best. Alarms, notes, friends to call you, rubber bands on your wrist, or a reminder in your phone to remember to complete your new action work well, too.
- Plan for triggers - You may get discouraged being tired after a long day at work which may trigger you to think that you’re too tired to go for a walk after dinner (new habit). The key is to find out what your triggers are — and then plan ways to avoid or cope with them if they are a barrier to your lifestyle improvement. Certain people, places, events or situations sometimes trigger a lapse once you’ve started. When a lapse happens, don’t get discouraged. Learn from the lapse and get back on track as soon as possible.
- Make it Daily – Consistency is critical if you want to make a habit stick. If you want to start exercising, go to the gym every day for your first thirty days. Going a couple times a week will make it harder to form the habit. Activities you do once every few days are trickier to lock in as habits. An action you will take everyday or even many times a day will take only two to three weeks to install. An activity that you will only do once a week but have decided should be a habit because it is something you want to do can take up to twelve weeks to install!
- Pick ONE habit, and focus on that one new habit
- Commit to your new habit for a minimum of 21 days to a month. Research states that it takes a minimum of three weeks to develop a new habit
- Most important, make it easy to succeed! Don’t jump into something you have to make a big change to accommodate – make it easy enough to succeed and earn an ‘A’ for the day.
You want the habit of waking up 20 minutes earlier but keep pushing the alarm snooze. Make it hard to stay in bed. Move the alarm, make it louder, put it on a “hard-listening” music station, set the coffee on a timer so it’s ready when you get up, or set the TV on a timer.
Want to start cooking your own meals? Don’t try to cook ALL of your own meals in the onset. Just aim for one meal per day. Create a schedule you will be successful with in the beginning – again, make it super easy!
Want to quit drinking soda? Instead of replacing a twelve pack of diet soda per day, replace just the cans you drink at work with mineral water (or any diet soda alternative). Make it so easy you know you’ll be able to do it.
At Spine One, we review these principles with our clients from Day 1, and continue working with these concepts with our clients throughout treatment, so that the journey in rehabilitation becomes a life style change. When it is a lifestyle change, the chances of sustainable success after completion of the program are much greater.
Submitted by: Robin Balchen, Clinical Program Manager at SpineOne