Five tips for creating and reinforcing healthy habits
by Victoria Bowmann, Ph.D. —
Spring is a time for looking and feeling our best so we can enjoy the temperate weather before the summer heat arrives. Let us look at what we can do to be successful since knowledge without action will not get us very far. So right now, choose one thing that you believe will help you have better health, as even little things make a difference.
We all have heard that it takes 21 days to create a habit. This is both true and not true. Forming a new habit often involves more than a prescribed amount of time. Here are five tips to help develop and maintain healthy habits.
1. The chosen habit needs to have a commitment behind it. Start by saying, “I am going to do it. That is it. Period.” Say it again, with more gusto.
Now take action. A decision must have action within 48 hours, or it will not come to pass. A little action is a step in the right direction; so every little action builds success. Find one thing to do each day to support your decision. Whether it is 21 days or 21 weeks later, you will have created a successful habit, day by day.
I like to think of Neil Armstrong’s famous words when he stepped on the moon, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Leaps in progress do not happen all at once. NASA took decades to develop a space program to get us to the moon. Every day someone was working on the project. Yet we usually only remember the date of that final leap on July 20, 1969, even though it took thousands of small steps to get there. So get started and never stop.
2. You will be successful if you do not quit. The winner is the one who gets up one more time than he fell. So keep on keeping on.
I have heard it said, “It always works out in the end. And if it has not worked out, it is not the end.” Our lives are each a journey; we are in it for the long haul. So see your decision as a means to having a happier, healthier life.
Even if you forgot today, consider it like the hiccups. They come. They go. When we have hiccups, they seem to be our focus. But once they are gone, we forget we had them. It is just a hiccup. Reaffirm your commitment and take action.
3. Reinforce your decision with pictures. If you have not done a goal map, do it now. Goal maps are made by putting pictures of your intended goals onto a poster or in a notebook. If you want to lose weight, put these words on your map: “I am trim and fit,” along with pictures of things that you want to do — bicycling, golfing, hiking your favorite mountain, etc.
Find pictures of activities with people who look the way you want to look and glue your face over theirs. See yourself in that way. Instead of saying, “I am going to lose 25 pounds” say, “I now weigh (goal weight here) pounds, and am healthy, happy and vibrantly alive.” Look at your goal map at least twice daily for one minute. Feel the action of each picture.
A goal map needs to be in the present time. The phrase, “Future thinking is the tricky part,” applies here. Think of the movie “Back to the Future” and see yourself right now how you plan to be. Pretend in the present moment that it has already come to pass. It will.
4. Talk the talk. Write down at least 29 short statements, mottos or phrases on note cards or in a list. Things like:
- It always works out for me.
- The difference between success and failure is the little things.
- When I do the right things long enough, I will succeed.
- I have an ongoing commitment to improvement.
- I do what others are unwilling to do.
- What I want is going to happen.
- I am another step closer to my dreams.
- My eyes are open to new possibilities.
- I am a winner.
I have given you only nine phrases — you get to come up with 20 more. If you need a little help, send me an email to request them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Every day for 68 seconds flip through your note cards or read your list out loud, with enthusiasm and anticipation of success. You might want to do this privately. Pretend you are cheering at a football game for your team, the final play, for the win. Be your own cheerleader. Jump up and down. Get excited. Give it 68 seconds. Ready? Set? Go!
5. The final step is a nightly review. As you crawl into bed each night, make this review part of your bedtime routine. Curl up and get comfy; think of the positives you have done today toward your decision.
Open one hand and count on your fingers. Did I do one positive action towards my goal? Did I have a hiccup and if so, how did I resolve it? Did I look at my goal map at least twice today? Did I spend 68 seconds on verbally declaring my statements and mottos with enthusiasm?
Now tighten your fist and say, “I am going to do it. That is it. Period.” Take a deep breath, sigh, relax and drift off to sleep knowing that you are successfully moving toward your goal.
Remember, health care is mostly self-care. Doctors and practitioners can make suggestions or give directions; however, it is what we do daily that actually brings about results. So start your action plan today, and get out to enjoy the spring in great health.
Victoria Bowmann, Ph.D., is a licensed massage practitioner specializing in cleansing and detoxification. She has been in private practice in northeast Phoenix since 1978. 602-971-8392, email@example.com or myrealhealth.com.
Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 35, Number 1, February/March 2016.