Good habit-forming can be really challenging. It can take between 2-8 months to form new habits, depending on the person and their circumstances (1). After 30 years, I’m still trying to get into the formation of getting up in the morning without snoozing my alarm 200 times. Here’s my list:
1. Take baby steps
We can start by making small tweaks to your current lifestyle so your mind and body can adapt.
2. Set challenging goals
Have you ever dreamt of that body you always wanted? Have you ever dreamt you can run for five minutes and not wanting to pass out? Have you ever dreamt about wearing that super tight All Saints t-shirt? People who enjoy lists and processes will love setting goals (2). Remember to reward yourself when you have achieved them. My summer body is still TBC.
3. Make it fun
You’re more likely to maintain a routine when you enjoy it, especially when it’s more strenuous such as high-intensity interval training (3). I know that dreaded feeling knowing you HAVE to do something you dislike, like the laundry for example. It’s such a mental effort. This isn’t a feeling you can maintain long-term, so I’ll eventually run out of clean clothes. I now combine laundry with contemporary dance, to make it more fun.
4. It has to be challenging
To break old habits is hard work and does require some determination to be successful. I love how our body adapts to exercise over time which can seem like it’s getting easier (4). But be mindful to keep it challenging so you don’t get stuck in a bubble.
5. Develop those automatic responses
Researchers have suggested that internal and environmental instigation habits are the best way to stick to a routine (5). Imagine finishing work and then naturally, you will drive to the gym, or the alarm in the morning will signal to go for a jog. Or leaving the pub is the signal to get a pizza.
6. Make exercise and fitness more of a positive priority in your life
We all have the same time, we prioritise our daily tasks going off what we believe is most important to us. If getting fit and healthy is not that much of a priority to you, then it will get pushed back of the queue. I’m pretty certain fitness can be moulded into busy lifestyles in one way or another.
7. Give yourself mini breaks
Too much of something can be a bad thing! Boredom is defined as “the aversive experience of wanting, but being unable, to engage in satisfying activity” (6). I sometimes come across a song I love and I’ll listen to it on repeat for nearly a week. I will then get bored and I’ll try to find another. Giving yourself mini breaks helps you have a rest from heavy routines and also gives you the opportunity to reflect on what has and hasn’t worked.
8. Designate certain days and times
Choosing a time of day to exercise is another way to help your mind get into instigation habits. However, it is easier for people who have a set working schedule. Working shifts is trickier to nail habits. I would recommend keeping a track of your free time to fit in exercise where you can.
9. Find a partner
No, not the lovey, relationship kind. Well, that’s up to you. But a study suggests finding an exercise partner will significantly increase exercise activity (7). Just make sure they are not on their phones when you need spotting.
10. Never give up
Finally, just keep going. Your body will eventually adapt to the challenges and endorphins will kick in from achieving your goals. Bingo. All Saints t-shirt is out tonight.