Creating Long Lasting Habits
Written by Chrissie Peterson, a Wellness Coach at the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program
Creating healthy habits and implementing lifestyle changes can be hard. Whether it’s improving our diet, increasing our exercise, or lowering our stress level, behavior change takes work. How many times have you thought the following statement, “I know what to do, but I’m just not doing it”? The following list includes key areas to focus on and questions to ask yourself before implementing a new habit or working to change a behavior.
- What’s my why?
- Why do I want to make this change?
- What makes this change important to me?
- What matters most right now?
Connect with your reasons for wanting to make the behavior change. Thinking in terms of benefits we will gain rather than negative effects to avoid can make it easier to get motivated. For example, instead of saying, “I am walking because that’s what the doctor told me to do” try framing it like this, “I’m going to begin a walking routine because I know I will feel better, have more energy and enjoy my time outdoors”.
- Where am I going?
- If I did this new behavior, how would my life be different?
- What will be better after I make this change?
The “where” you are headed matters just as much as the “why”. Creating a Wellness Vision is a great way to keep forward momentum when implementing a new habit. A Wellness Vision is a compelling statement that describes you as your “best-self”. It defines what you truly desire and how you live when you’re at your best. The vision may include behaviors, actions, strengths, feelings, relationships, or visual image. The Wellness Vision should give you confidence, energy, and motivation for your desired changes. Exploring this vision of you as your best-self helps you identify where you’re going.
- How will I create these health changes?
- What is the specific way I plan to put this new behavior into practice and get the outcome I want?
- How will this fit in my day-to-day routine?
Goal setting provides a structure for planning. It helps us get clear on what actions we will take. When we break down goals into small action steps, we are more likely to be successful and feel more accomplished. Create SMART goals to set yourself up for success when implementing a new behavior. SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time Bound
- Am I ready to give this a try?
- What can I learn from this experiment?
Use an experimental mindset to put your goal into practice. Generally, the knowing what to do isn’t the problem. It is the doing. Implementation is where we most often get stuck. How we approach implementation may impact our success and our mindset plays a big role in this. Thinking in terms of experimenting with change and not in terms of pass/fail gives us the opportunity to learn, no matter what happens. Experiments are free from judgments and pressure. What happens after the experiment is where the real forward-moving progress occurs.
- How did it go?
- What did I learn?
- What should I adjust for next time?
Taking time to reflect on how the experiment went is important to creating lasting health habits. Assess without judgement – use kindness and self-compassion. Allow yourself to learn from what went well and the things that didn’t go as well. Use what you learned to plan for future experiments.
- Celebrate Success
- How can you celebrate the small steps along the way?
Behavior change and creating healthy habits can be hard, take time to celebrate your success along the way. Recognize all that you have accomplished and allow yourself time to experience the good feelings success can bring.
What are some of your health-based habits? How do you stick with them?