As a result of the pandemic this year, I stopped a lot of my good habits while adjusting to all the changes. I replaced the gym and seeing friends and family with more screen time and wine nights in. While it was fun to indulge myself temporarily, I started to notice feeling more sluggish and unmotivated overall.
I wanted to get back on track and was lucky enough to come across the podcast “Tiny Leaps, Big Changes” and listened to episode 557 which was exactly about this. The tips from it alongside support from therapy helped me successfully implement healthy habits again.
Already, I’ve noticed a positive change in my mental and physical health. These are the steps I took to get there.
1. Identify why some healthy habits had stopped
In this case, it was easy to see that my good habits stopped alongside the pandemic. However, it’s easy to lose our healthy habits anytime our routines change. Going on vacation for two weeks then returning to work can do it. Indulging in the holidays with parties and treats for an entire month can throw us off big time, making it hard to go back to eating healthy. Whenever you notice yourself off track, it’s best to figure out how you got there in order to get back on track and make a plan.
2. Analyze your daily routine and if you don’t have one, start one
Look at your daily and weekly routine. If you work Monday to Friday, it’s easier to build consistent habits around a solid schedule. For people who work different hours or are stay-at-home parents, you’ll have to develop a plan around these inconsistencies.
If you’re a person who doesn’t have a routine, start thinking about creating one for yourself. Not having a consistent routine creates problems in being able to keep up a good habit. I tend to be disorganized and a shift worker so I have to work hard to develop a regular routine.
I purchased an Amazon Alexa and programmed it to turn my bedroom light on, tell me the weather, and remind me to make my bed every morning. This programmed reminder has helped me immensely in creating a morning routine.
3. Keep your habits simple to start with
Start with simplistic goals for new habits. Often, when we decide we want to reach a goal, we become overzealous with our ambitions and plans. We create complicated goals that are hard to meet and leave us feeling dejected when we don’t.
Instead of, “I want to work out and finally have ripped arms or abs”, think more along the lines of “I want to work out consistently at least 3 times a week” or “I want to do 10,000 steps a day.” Once you get the momentum of movement again, it’ll be much easier to build on these skills. To eat healthier, start with adding more vegetables to your meals rather than restricting yourself to the extreme.
4. Once you’ve accomplished the small goals, start expanding on them
If you’re wanting to continue being healthier after incorporating more vegetables, start trying other healthy substitutes. If that works out, look into healthy meal planning based around a certain program you’re interested in.
Personally, if I restrict myself all at once, I often fail and that’s applicable to many things. If I haven’t worked out for a month, it’s much easier to promise myself to do 10 minutes on a treadmill rather than an hour. An hour on a treadmill feels overwhelming, 10 minutes does not.
Each time I promised myself only 10 minutes on a treadmill, I always found myself doing more than that bare minimum. I just needed that mental reassurance that I only needed to do 10 minutes to get myself on it.
5. Be aware of both positive and negative triggers
Triggers or “calls to action” are key in getting us to do habits. There can be good triggers or bad triggers. For me, I have to have visual reminders as I’m a big believer in out of sight, out of mind.
To drink water, I carry a jug of water with me all day. For taking my vitamins, I must have the jars out on my kitchen counter where I make my coffee, or I simply won’t remember to take them if I can’t see them.
There are negative triggers too. When I sit down to watch TV at night, I always want to pour a glass of wine. I had to be mindful of that desire and replace it with something else to change it. Instead, I now do stretches for 10-15 minutes and a cup of tea when I first turn the TV on.
6. Don’t beat yourself up for not being where you were a year ago.
It’s so easy to fall into this trap. Last year, I did a 30-day challenge where I hiked up 600 steps every day doing three to five laps. When I decided to get back on track, I wanted to accomplish this goal again but when I went to do it, I regretted it immediately knowing I wasn’t as fit as I was last year. The disappointment in this realization made me just want to go home and comfort eat.
However, after listening to the Tiny Leaps, Big Changes podcast, I realized it’s very normal for us to change in a year, and rather than judging myself for it, I just needed to adjust to where I’m at today. My new goal instead was to do 10,000 steps a day, that I would track with my apple watch. This encouraged me to get in a daily walk and take the stairs at my apartment rather than the elevator. Within two weeks, my stamina was back up and I was feeling motivated to expand on this goal.
7. Finally, if none of the above helps you successfully start new habits, try to identify why
Some habits did not stick for me at first. When I wanted to ensure I was completing 10,000 steps a day, I found my results inconsistent. I had to analyze the reason behind that. Was I unable to reach my goals when I had days off or was it during my work week? Maybe my hormones and overall moods affected my success on some days? None of those reasons ended up being the answer.
I realized I wasn’t successful on the days I’d save my walk for the end of the day. For me, ensuring I got a walk in at the start of my day, before work, or during my breaks at work was essential to my success. Some habits if saved until the evening won’t happen as our motivation naturally decreases as the day goes on and we become more tired.
Remember that all habits are encompassed by a trigger (something that makes us want to do the habit), a routine (our day-to-day behavior that implements the habit), and a reward that comes from doing the habit or behavior. Once you identify what those are, it will be a lot easier for you to understand what to do to be successful at implementing good habits.