You might know what you need to do to get healthier, but you won’t look or feel any different until you put it into practice. What does it take to see real improvements to your health? It takes altering your habits. In the following article, we’ll discuss how to change your habits and develop healthier routines.
To start, if you’re wondering what the difference is between a habit and a routine, the answer is simple:
A habit is something you do regularly without thinking. For instance, taking a shower or brushing your teeth in the morning. A routine is simply a set of habits. If you can develop healthier habits during your day, you’re already building a healthier daily routine.
Also worth mentioning is that a habit can refer to actions and thoughts. For instance, you might have the bad habit of focusing on your failures. This might seem like an innocuous thought, but it is a mental habit, actually, and if done regularly enough, your self-image will be affected.
In what Stage of Change are you?
According to the Stages of Change model (also known as the transtheoretical model), you have to pass through the following stages before changing a habit: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, and termination.
Based on the following definitions, in what state of change do you find yourself? Once you’ve determined what state you’re in, you can consider the strategies and processes that will get you to the next stage.
Precontemplation: You have no interest in improving your health.
Contemplation: You are thinking about being healthier, but you don’t know how to get started.
Preparation: You start preparing to take action by researching diets, weight loss clinics, or workout programs.
Action: You’re actively making changes to be healthier; you’ve started implementing new habits.
Maintenance: You’re consistently maintaining your habits.
Termination: At this stage, there is no longer the need to maintain the change; you’ve achieved your objectives.
How long will it take to change your habits?
Imagine that you’re in the Action stage of the model; how long will it take for you to reach the Maintenance stage? In other words, how long will it take to stick to a routine consistently?
To say there’s a hard and fast rule for this would be misleading. Every person is different; some people are more disciplined than others.
According to Maxwell Maltz in his international bestselling self-help book, Psycho-Cybernetics (1960), it takes people 21 days to form a new habit. That is, if you consistently perform an action for 21 days, it develops into a relatively effortless habit to maintain.
How to build a healthy routine?
The first thing to keep in mind as you build a healthy routine is that you should approach it gradually, changing habits one at a time.
By taking it slow, you can assess whether a new habit works for you and your schedule. While you might be able to start a completely new routine from one day to another, this will likely be difficult to maintain over the long term.
Another helpful suggestion is to focus on morning and evening routines. These are easier to control and are generally rewarding. A healthy morning routine can help you begin your day calmly and productively, and an evening routine can help you unwind, encouraging better sleep and more energy for the day to come.
Particularly with a morning routine, if you start your day with a few good habits, you’re more likely to make healthy choices throughout the day.
Be open to changing your routine. Developing a healthy routine requires trial and error, and that’s ok. You may realize that you hate jogging in the morning and prefer doing ten push-ups—fine, change your routine! However, once you find something that works, practice it consistently until it becomes second nature.
Even once you’ve defined new, healthy habits you want to include in your routine and you’ve started practicing them daily, you may still find them difficult to maintain. Before relenting to frustration and giving up, try some of these maintenance tips:
Remember why you’re doing it. Simply remembering why you’ve adopted a new habit and routine can remind you what is important and provide a slight shift in perspective. This simple reminder is often all the motivation you need to keep practicing your routine.
Track your progress. By tracking and observing your progress, you’ll feel motivated to keep up the healthy habits. Food journaling is one way many people track their progress when trying to eat healthier. Another way is by creating a checklist in the morning. If it’s more convenient for your schedule, settle on an evening routine in which you implement your new habits.
Visualize your daily goals. This is a mind tool that you can also develop into a habit and apply to many areas of your life. By visualizing your day ahead of time and walking yourself through your healthy habits, your subconscious will, in effect, be practicing them and boosting your confidence, so you’ll be ready when the time comes to perform the activity.