Eating unhealthy foods occasionally or forgetting a workout one day won’t do much harm, but turning these into regular habits can affect your health. Although it’s tough to follow healthy habits when you’re not used to them, learning how is crucial for your well-being. Unhealthy habits increase your risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and other health problems. Here are some tips to help you form healthier lifestyle habits, which can reduce the risk of these dangers.
It’s important to realize that it takes between 60 and 90 days to form a new habit. If you start replacing potato chips and cookies with fruits and vegetables, you can expect to struggle with this change for the first couple of months. Likewise, if you begin working out or going for walks, you might find yourself making excuses for skipping this activity until it becomes part of your daily routine. The same holds if you set your mind on more sleep. Don’t talk yourself out of eating healthy, exercising, or going to sleep at the same time though. Stick to your goals, and keep in mind that you should have an easier time with them after two or three months.
Shift Your Focus
The way you think about healthy habits has a strong impact on whether or not you follow them. Instead of thinking about eating healthier as missing out on your favorite treats, think of it in terms of replacing those foods. Find healthier versions of snacks or desserts that you normally enjoy eating, so you won’t feel like you’re being deprived. When it comes to exercise, don’t dwell on the fact that you could be sitting in front of the TV. Focus on the positive aspects of exercise, such as enjoying fresh air during walks. It’s ok to reward yourself afterwards by watching an episode of your favorite show.
Take Small Steps
Switching over to a healthy lifestyle if you’ve been following an unhealthy one can be overwhelming if you do it all at once. Take a slower approach that involves breaking up your overall goal into smaller ones. For example, start an exercise routine by committing to taking short 10 to 15-minute walks after meals. You can gradually work up to longer workouts that are more challenging.
You are more likely to stick with your goals if you see progress, and the best way to do that is to measure your baseline now and then occasionally (daily or weekly) at the same time and under the same conditions. Weigh yourself, for example, when you first wake up. If you do it weekly, do it on the same day, say Wednesday, knowing that it’s easier to get off track on weekends. It’s also helpful to keep some sort of log about how you “feel.” Are you in a better mood? Can you walk more? Do you get up more or less at night to pee, and how easy is it to go back to sleep?
It’s harder to give into excuses for not following healthy habits if you’re having someone hold you accountable. Let a trusted friend or family member know what your daily goals are and ask them to check in with you regularly to see if you’ve achieved them. This can just be a quick phone call or email, but it should be enough to give you the extra motivation to stick to your healthy habits. Confiding in someone else also provides you with more encouragement, which can help keep you going.
Don’t Give Up
There will be times when you don’t meet your daily goals, but don’t let that stop you from working on making those into healthy habits. Brush off the minor setback, and continue trying to form those habits one day at a time. If you need some additional motivation, keep in mind that teaching yourself how to form new habits can help you out in other ways, whether it’s remembering to perform a new task at work or remembering to apply treatment to get rid of persistent toenail fungus. Learning how to make these changes part of your daily routine is a valuable skill to have in all areas of your life.
Seek Professional Help
Most people can develop healthier habits on their own with these suggestions, but some may need help. Give it a shot for a good 60-90 days, but know that professional help is available if needed, including programs such as cognitive behavior therapy and guided Yoga and meditation. Think of seeking help as allowing yourself to be pampered by massage or body work rather than a weakness, and rewarding each of your milestones. View this as a journey and an investment in your self – your health, your relationships, and your performance at school, work, or in sports. Once you’ve successfully adopted healthier lifestyle habits, they’ll be easier to do on a daily basis and you will be in much better shape.
About The Author
Sandy Getzky is an associate editor at ProveMyMeds, a public health and education startup focused on producing helpful resources concerning the treatment of common ailments. With a background in nursing and a passion for natural healing practices, Sandy brings a balance of traditional and alternative medicine to her writing and research topics.