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HOW TO BUILD A NEW HEALTHY HABIT! PART TWO

HOW TO BUILD A NEW HEALTHY HABIT! PART TWO Lean Strong Fitness & Wellness

In the last instalment we covered how the habit loop works and the 3 pieces of the loop you can use to break the cycle of a bad habit.

If you haven’t read it already, check it out HERE – it has the foundation for you.

So, you’ve got a thing you want to start doing, but you just can’t seem to be consistent.

There’s no routine, and it feels like a lot of work.

It could be getting into a workout routine, meal prepping for healthier meals, or if you are like me, getting back in the habit of waking up earlier.

In any case, it revolves around habit, and the better you can understand Charles Duhigg’s Habit Loop from his outstanding book The Power of Habit, the easier it will be for you to make the change.

HOW TO BUILD A NEW HEALTHY HABIT! PART TWO Lean Strong Fitness & Wellness

The true power of a habit is once it’s created, it is a mini-routine that’s automatic. This is SO POWERFUL because it makes the action not feel difficult, and it doesn’t require willpower.

The nice part of making a new habit, is we get to start with a clean slate, and don’t have to undo any of the “bad habits” we’ve made in the past.

There is a bit of work up front to change it, but our system makes it as simple and easy as possible.

HERE’S HOW TO CREATE A NEW, HEALTHY HABIT:
PICK THE ACTION YOU WANT TO DO.
It can be anything you want – working out in the morning, prepping healthier meals, waking up earlier (that’s the one I am working on).
The way we approach the action you want to do is to “Goldilocks” it – we help our clients make their porridge (their habit) the right temperature (difficulty) for them.

If you want to start working out more, decide on what’s
A. IDEAL in a perfect world.
B. The ACCEPTABLE MINIMUM you’ll be okay with.
C. The MIDDLE ground where you’d be 8/10 happy with your progress.

More than likely, the middle ground is what you should actually strive for, and treat the times you hit your ideal target as a bonus and the times you hit your acceptable minimum as still a win.

For instance, if you want to workout every morning, but mornings are busy and you are low on energy, ideal might be a 45 minute workout, the minimum is 10 minutes of stretching, and the middle ground might be 25 minutes.

In this case, start with 25 minutes and see how you feel. Once you build the habit, it’s easy to add to, so don’t start too hard and set yourself up to fail :).

NEXT, PICK THE CUE. WHAT IS THE TRIGGER YOU WILL USE TO START THE HABIT?
One of the most effective cues for working out is to lay your workout clothes and shoes out the night before. I have a friend who even goes so far as to point his shoes towards the room he works out in with the laces undone. This way when you see your workout clothing, your brain says “workout time” and it just happens. The same way when you go to the washroom before bed your brain automatically picks up the toothbrush.
This is what starts the habit loop, and puts you into “automatic mode” and takes the willpower piece out of the equation.
We did this with our son a couple years ago when he refused to brush his teeth. We set an alarm for 8pm and when that went off it was time to brush his teeth and get ready for bed.
The alarm was his cue to start his bedtime routine habit, and an alarm on your phone is a great way to start almost any habit loop.

What’s the routine? The routine is the response. In the case of building a new habit, this is the action you will do.

Using the example of workouts, once you see your workout clothing laid out, the routine is to put it on, go to your workout space, and start your workout!

This is obviously the hardest part of a habit loop, and I’ve found the best way to approach it is to stop thinking about it. Yes, I didn’t want to workout this morning either (even fitness people struggle, we’re only human), but I went downstairs, turned on my favourite workout playlist, and did 20 minutes of exercise.

The more you are “in your head” about it and rationalizing with yourself, the harder it will be, and ultimately all that effort you spent trying to talk yourself out of it both drains your willpower and holds you back from your goals.

For me, if I can get the first minute or two of a workout done, the middle 15-20 minutes just kind of happen, and then approaching the 20-ish minutes mark I start to be tired of it, and that’s okay.

I still hit my middle ground target, and am glad I did!

PICK A REWARD! THIS IS THE FUN PART, AND CAN BE TAILORED TO ANYTHING YOU WANT.

Get a morning workout done? Great, you can now enjoy a cup of the fancier, more expensive coffee in the morning.

Get all your workouts in this week? Treat yourself and buy a new workout shirt.

Get your lunches for the week prepped and in the fridge? Have a glass of your favourite wine.

Kat, our Nutrition and Accountability coach, has set up a group of friends who share a “sweaty selfie” when their workout is done – The reward is the accountability and accomplishment with friends!

The key with the reward is twofold:

First, you obviously get the reward of your efforts – you’re happy and accomplished when your workout is done, you feel leaner and disciplined when you had healthier lunches, and I know I feel more energetic for the day when I wake up earlier.

Second, it’s important to give yourself a reward for the EFFORTS you put in while you are building the habit loop.

The new workout shirt, the glass of wine after prepping your lunches, the fancy morning coffee after a 20 minute workout… you get the idea.

The longer term reward can sometimes feel “too long term”, so giving yourself some instant gratification goes a long way towards getting that habit loop started.

And after a while, you won’t need the fancy coffee, the new workout shirt, or the glass of wine – the reward is your results and how you feel.

But in the short term, those make it a lot easier.

Alright, that might feel like a lot, so here’s the quick recap how to build a new, healthy habit.

1. Pick the action you want to do, and goldilocks with with ideal, minimum, and middle ground.

2. Pick your CUE – What is your trigger to do your habit?

3. Set your routine – What actions will you take?

4. Enjoy a reward!

It will take some time to establish a new habit – research says anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months of consistent effort, so don’t be discouraged if you Google it.

What is important is the more you do the habit, the easer it gets, until you get to the point where it’s as automatic as brushing your teeth… you can do it in your sleep!

And if you stumble, that’s not a failure, it’s part of the learning process. Revisit your ideal, minimum and middle ground, and simply adjust.

After all, you’ll be much further ahead getting started with something small that you will by not starting at all!

Habit Change can be a challenging realm for a lot of people. It’s one thing to know what to do, and it’s another entirely to be able to practice the skills and mindset to be successful long term – after all, almost everyone “knows what they need to do”.

They struggle to put it into action.

If you’re interested in learning more working with a coach to help you implement changes in your life click below to book a free, no-obligation phone call to see if we’re the right fit.

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