Healthy Habits & Lifestyle Changes
Three Tips for Making Healthy Lifestyle Changes Easier
#1 Take baby steps. When making lifestyle changes, it can be helpful to think of it not as a resolution to change all at once, but as an evolution or a process. Start small, taking baby steps over time as you, your brain and your body grow accustomed to a new way of being, thinking and doing. For many people, change works best if you set small goals and try to meet those one at a time. For example, instead of saying, “I am going to quit drinking alcohol,” it might be easier and more manageable to say, “I am not going to have a drink with lunch today.” Once you are able to consistently meet a small goal for a while, move on to the next step. For example, “I am not going to have a drink with lunch or dinner today,” and so on.
#2 Change only one habit or behavior at a time. If you want to quit drinking and also to quit smoking, it will likely be infinitely easier if you quit just one of these habits at a time. Change can be stressful to body, mind and spirit. If you try to change a bunch of behaviors at once — perhaps giving up alcohol, cigarettes and trying to lose 10 pounds all in the same month — that can stress all of your systems because it is too overwhelming. Things will be easier if you take a more systematic approach to making lifestyle changes. First, try giving up alcohol for a month or so. Once that gets easier, try eliminating a couple of your customary cigarette breaks by replacing them a healthy habit, like walking around the block or up and down the stairs at work. After you have made progress with those first two lifestyle changes, think about making some dietary changes in order to drop a few pounds.
#3 Get some support. Solicit the support of a friend or family member to help you stick to your plan by joining you in quitting a bad habit and replacing it with a healthy one. You might invite a colleague who is trying to lose weight to accompany you on a walk around the block on your lunch break. If you are trying to lose weight, a source of support can be organized groups like Overeaters Anonymous (OA), or Weight Watchers. If you are in recovery, ask a friend or family member to attend an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting with you to support your sobriety. If the lifestyle changes you are trying to make are more challenging or complex, consider seeking the help of a professional therapist. The point is to get help as a way to bolster your resolve and commitment. Learning to ask for help and accept it is an important life skill, so proactively seeking help not only supports the lifestyle changes you are trying to make, it also helps you develop a new skill!
It is important to remember that lifestyle changes don’t happen in a day. It will take time for new behaviors to become healthy habits. You will probably experience occasional missteps — we all do. This doesn’t mean you have failed! It means that you are going through a transition process. Take it one step at a time, and whenever you stumble, don’t berate yourself. Gently guide yourself back onto the path.
Making lifestyle changes that last. American Psychological Association, 2017.