We are bombarded in pop culture media with all kinds of information about creating healthy habits. Drink more water, meditate daily, floss your teeth, stretch and roll, workout, start a gratitude journal, start a bed time routine, get up early, eat more leafy greens, be better, be better, be better, blah, blah, blah, etc., etc., etc.
We all have healthy habits we should be doing.
Nope. Let’s try again.
We’re going to go ahead and take “should” out of this conversation. It’s full of judgement, which then fills us with feelings of guilt and shame, which are the exact opposite of what you want as the supporting foundation of building your healthy habits. It won’t work. Let’s try this:
What’s something you would like to start doing on a regular basis that would help you live your values and would feel like a proactive choice in being the person you want to be and living the life you want to live?
If you want to create a healthy habit of any kind, whether it’s work-related, family-related, self-care related, or sport-related – here is your lesson for this month’s Mental Training School:
How can you make it easier to make the health-related choice and make it harder to make the unhealthy choice?
Habit: Drink more water
Nope. Let’s try again.
If you’ve read any of my stuff on goal-setting, you know that’s not specific enough. Say you’re trying to get to 64-ounces of water a day and you know that you’ll get some of that with your food, etc. And right now, you’re probably only drinking about 16 ounces of actual water on average (not including what you’re getting from other parts of your diet) so you want to create the habit of drinking at least 48 ounces of water per day.
Habit: Drink 48 ounces of water daily
That’s better. Now for the next piece, how can you make it easier to make the health-related choice and make it harder to make the unhealthy choice?
Strategies to make it easier to make the choice to drink water:
- Fill up a clear 48-ounce container of water and drink from that throughout the day until it is empty.
- Set a daily reminder in your phone to pop up at two different times in the day that reminds you of your goal:
“Hey lady, are you drinking water?”
“What’s in your hand right now? Is it water?”
Strategies to make it harder to make the “unhealthy” choice (the choice to NOT drink water):
- Don’t have other beverages in the house that would create a choice between water and another drink.
- Only allow yourself to drink something other than water on certain days of the week.
Whatever your habit is, get creative with thinking about how to set yourself up for success by making it easier to do it and harder not to. In order to move this into an actual habit – the next part is to track your progress.
If paper is your thing, print out this 21-days worksheet and fill it out and then post it up where you will see it. For each day that you accomplish your daily habit, mark the box for that day. Go old school and get yourself some cool smiley-face or star stickers. Seriously. It will be awesome.
And if you have a week where you miss a day (or two or three), don’t sweat it. Just shoot for trying to make it more days in the following week. And if you feel like you didn’t quite make the 21-day goal – then print out a new worksheet and try it again. Because really – 21-days isn’t actually a magic formula for creating habits. It’s just a place to get started and gain some momentum. To bring it to the forefront of your mind.
If apps are your thing then check out Strides. Strides is an app that helps you track your goals and habits in one place. With the free version, it allows you to track up to 10 goals/habits. Whether you do it on paper or online – tracking your progress can help with accountability when you are striving to achieve or adopt any kind of behavior change. And remember to consider the motivation underneath it all. Whatever you choose – don’t do it because you have to or think you should. Figure out why you want to – how it connects to your greater values and will add to the quality of your life.