Monday, April 21, 2014

Habits, Lifestyle and Change

So we have all heard the old adage....Practice makes perfect! Did you also know that practice makes a habit? Well, it is true. It does.

Habits are habitual or practiced acts that we do over and over again eventually becoming a part of our daily lives. This goes for both the good and the bad habits. If you are used to getting up and eating oatmeal, toast and coffee every day for breakfast, at some point there was a first day that you did this and after a certain number of days of repetition, it is now a habit. That is not to say that you can't have eggs and bacon one morning instead of the oatmeal, but chances are, you will go back to the oatmeal because it is a habit. Not only are you physically attached to this habit, but you are also mentally/emotionally attached. It is an all over body response to a practiced act. Your oatmeal habit didn't start overnight and if you are to change it and say replace the toast with fruit or the coffee with water, then you must begin a new practice or habit and for awhile, you will miss and likely even crave your toast and coffee.

Many habits that we have in our daily lives are not particularly thought out or even thought about. We simply just started doing them one day and now they are part of our life. Some are good and maybe some not so good. For example, brushing your teeth after breakfast and before bedtime is a good habit, hitting the snooze on your alarm over and over again is not. Going to bed at 10 p.m. is a good habit but eating a midnight snack is not.

The key to making positive lifestyle changes and implementing healthy habits is to take an inventory of your current habits. Do you sleep too late? Do you skip exercise? Or do you need a candy fix everyday? Is soda the occasional treat or is it one of the food groups in your daily diet? Once you inventory, then you need to ask yourself.....What is helping me? What is harming me and what really isn't an issue either way? Whatever is helping you, keep doing it, whatever is not helping or may even be harming you, those are the things you need to either ween yourself away from or stop completely and then replace those habits with new healthier versions or completely new positive habits.

As I said, a habit doesn't happen over night. Most studies say that in order to make something a habit, it must be practiced or done 28-30 consecutive days in a row. That's right, it takes approximately a month to create a habit. It takes that long for it to become both a physical and mental response. Now we are talking "creating" a habit here. Breaking a habit can even take a bit longer depending on how long the action has been a habit and how addictive that habit is such as smoking, drinking (alcohol), drug use and even going off coffee, soda and any other food/drink element that has chemical or stimulant properties. That being said, any habit can be broken with a little effort and a lot of patience and in some cases, the proper counseling. Sometimes we have to know and understand why we started the habit in the first place, in order to fully break the habit for good.

So how do habits and lifestyle change work together? We need to keep what is working, change what isn't and tweak everything else. If you are changing habits then don't try to change more than one or two at a time. If you go at it with the intention of changing everything over night then you are setting yourself up to fail and you will only end up disappointed and find yourself back at square one before you even get started. I suggest going at lifestyle change with the +/- approach. Add one new habit such as drinking 60 oz of water every day and get rid of one bad habit such as eating after 7 p.m. in the evening. These are two simple changes that don't take a lot of effort or mental change and yet both of these small changes can have a big effect on weight loss and overall health. Within a week you will be able to see the results of these changes and in a month you will have made a huge leap into a permanent healthy change and then you will be ready for the next +/- change. Eventually you will see amazing positive changes all the while you will be slowly weeding out the negative habits in your life. there you have it. Practice really does make perfect, especially when you are dealing with habits....both good and bad. So go ahead and take that inventory and let today be your day. only takes a month to change a habit and a minute to make the choice, so let the changes begin!

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