It is ironic how in medical practice, many professional demands make it more difficult to be healthy rather than enhance our ability to model good lifestyle choices for patients. The stress and demands of medical practice can also foster unhealthy habits, such as inadequate sleep or the consumption of convenience foods.
The “do what I say, not what I do” model doesn’t work well in practice or in our personal lives. In order to be a good role model for our patients and to be healthy and effective in both our work and personal lives, it is important to be deliberate in our efforts to develop healthy habits – and eliminate unhealthy ones.
If you’ve ever started a habit without following through in the long run, like daily exercise, eliminating “junk foods” or even meditation, you know it is not usually easy to change ingrained habits but it CAN be done! EssentialLifeSkills.net offers the following 7 steps to help us succeed in developing healthy habits.
7 Steps to Successfully Develop Healthy Habits
1. Identify the habit. Most of the time we are not aware of our habits, good or bad, so the first thing we need to do is become conscious of what they are. If we become winded after merely walking up a few stairs, there is a strong probability that a bad habit (smoking, sedentary lifestyle), or the lack of a good habit (exercise) is to blame. Maybe we are overweight, which means we've been in the bad habit of consuming more calories than we use, or not practicing the good habit of healthy eating and exercise. It's time to take a good look at the habits in which we engage!
2. Make the decision – and then the commitment – to change. Of course, this is easier said than done. How many times have we said to ourselves, "Yes, I should exercise more and eat better. Not to worry, I'll get around to it sooner or later?" Unfortunately, procrastinating just makes it harder to change a bad habit. The longer you put off taking action, especially where health is concerned, the unhealthier you, or the situation, will become. A conscious commitment is necessary because that's what it takes to get the wheels of motion in action.
3. Discover your triggers and obstacles. If you don't know what your triggers are, or if you are unprepared for the inevitable obstacles, you will set yourself up for failure. In order to develop good habits, we must become aware of our triggers and how we respond to obstacles and frustrations. All of us, in moments of weakness and vulnerability, need support or a release for our frustrations. Reaching for alcohol, self-medicating, over-eating or over-medicating is not the answer. If an unpleasant incident takes place at work, or a messy traffic altercation occurs on the way home, you need to find a healthy way of dealing with it. We all have bad days, but we need not resort to unhealthy habits to alleviate the stress. Likewise, we cannot let boredom, anger or anxiety be triggers for bad habits either. Look for healthy ways of dealing with triggers and obstacles.
4. Devise a plan. Benjamin Franklin had a great plan for overcoming his bad habits and replacing them with good ones. He developed a process whereby he listed 13 virtues he felt were important in his life and then proceeded to work on them. He focused on one virtue per week for a 13 week period. By the end of each week he felt he had mastered the bad habit so he proceeded to the next one the following week.
During this process he kept a journal of his success with the virtues. Since some of the virtues helped facilitate the acquisition of others, he put them in a particular order beginning with temperance because "it tends to procure that coolness and clearness of head, which is so necessary where constant vigilance was to be kept up." This will work well for anyone who is trying to establish a new good habit – vigilance is indeed needed to make sure you stick with it! Franklin had rhyme, reason and purpose for every virtue. He understood to develop good habits, keeping order would free him up for the things he really wanted to accomplish in life. His resolve, once it became habitual, would help him remain focused in order to implement all the other virtues.
5. Employ visualization and affirmations. Visualization and affirmations are great for integrating the new habit into your routine. While visualization is a powerful motivational tool and energizer, affirmations program the subconscious with the right mindset for establishing a new habit. Together they allow you to feel and imagine yourself carrying out the correct behaviors making it easier to adopt the new habit. Certainly developing good habits is easier when employing visualization and affirmations.
6. Enlist support from family and friends. Let people know what you're trying to accomplish. This way they will understand if you want to pass up the desert or go for a walk instead of stopping at the pub on the way home. When your friends know you are serious about changing a bad habit into a good one, not only will they help you steer away from temptations, they will cheer you on and give you moral support. We all need support in achieving our goals!
7. Find healthy ways to reward yourself. One of the reasons we develop many bad habits in the first place is because they make us feel good, even if it's just temporarily. The experience of feeling good is meant to soothe or placate us when we're stressed, dejected – or just plain out of sorts. For example, you might over-eat and feel really good while doing it, but then you feel twice as bad afterwards. The same goes for smoking or drinking too much. While you're in the act you feel relaxed and trouble free; however, afterwards you feel remorse and vow to quit - soon. So, in order to minimize falling off the wagon and slipping back into old, detrimental habits, reward yourself when you've done well. Treat yourself to a new book, a movie, a concert or new exercise equipment. You can also reward yourself with activities; visit a friend you haven't seen for a while, go to the downtown art gallery, indulge in a skinny latte or enjoy a weekend getaway with family or friends. Change occurs slowly; reward it incrementally.
We Can Help
Our extensive network of peer coaches, executive coaches, counselors and mentors can work with you to accomplish many different objectives – including tackling the challenge of successfully adopting healthy habits! For more information give us a call at 877.731.3949 to speak with one of our representatives. We’re available anytime, day or night.