Sometimes we think of success as reaching one big “aha” moment, but the secret to sustained successful change is repetition.
When it comes to healthy living, we need to create new habits to succeed. Habits are those little automated choices we make every day that determine our quality of life.
Here are five simple ways to replace the old with the new and create healthy habits that stick:
1. Identify the new habits you want to create.
The brain is like a muscle: It strengthens with clear instruction and repetition. Declare what you want to change and think of what a new corresponding habit would look like. Maybe your goal is to eat more plants. A habit that can help you reach this goal is setting aside some time on Sunday to prep meals or waking up 15 minutes earlier to fit in a nice breakfast.
Start now: What's one new habit you’d like to create in the next 30 days? Write it down and put it somewhere visible so that you can remind yourself throughout the month.
2. Know your MoFa (motivating factor).
The secret to sustaining change over time is staying connected to your motivating factor. It doesn’t have to inspire anyone else but you, but it should move you to shift those outdated behaviors toward new ones.
What will happen for you when you develop a new, healthy habit? Maybe fitting more plants in your diet will give you enough energy to pursue a side project you're passionate about, or perhaps it’s something longer term like being able to enjoy a longer, more fulfilling life disease-free.
Start now: Talk to a friend who will help to support you on your journey and help figure out your real MoFa. That way, when you find yourself in a weak moment, you can turn to somebody for encouragement.
3. Clear the clutter.
Stuff, whether physical or emotional, can hold you back. Take a moment to consider what you might be hanging on to. Then, turn it into an actionable item on your to-do list.
Everyone has to start somewhere. If you want to make room for new habits, the willingness to create that space is a step in the right direction. This could mean cleaning out your pantry of junk foods that might trigger old behaviors.
Start now: Start small. What's one area of your life (like your kitchen) that you could clear out in the next few days? Block out some time in your schedule to get it done.
4. Create pattern interrupts.
A pattern interrupt is like a record scratch. It reminds you that you are about to default to an old automated habit that may no longer be serving you.
It can be simple things like a reminder on your phone to pack your lunch for the next day or an inspiring photo that reflects how you want to feel. Whatever it is, it has to literally or symbolically tie back to your motivating factor so you're reminded of why the new habit is important.
Seeing these interruptions reminds you that you have a choice in your behavior. Over time you will start to practice the new behavior repeatedly until the desired behavior becomes automated, replacing the undesirable one.
Start now: Choose a pattern interrupt and start using it by the end of today. Keep it simple and create whatever works for you.
5. Link your new desired habit with the feeling of being rewarded.
Celebrate. If you train your brain to cue a reward when you choose your new healthy habit, you’ll eventually start to crave the new behavior more than the old one. The reminders become less necessary, and the new habit gets integrated into your natural way of being rather than something you have to be reminded to choose.
Start now: What reward would motivate you to keep going day after day? It could be a cup of tea after a healthy but satisfying lunch, a massage after you make 10 green smoothies for yourself, or a healthy cooking class with friends to inspire you for the months to come. Anything goes!
Even if you take on just one of these actions, you’ll be taking a step toward the lasting change that you desire. The bonus? Change is contagious. As you experience yourself creating lasting change, you’ll gain the confidence and motivation to repeat the behaviors that serve a healthier you.