Naturally, we are creatures of habits. Whether we realize it or not, many of our days revolve around the same routine. Forming a routine can help us to stay organized and driven. Webster’s Dictionary defines a habit as an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary.¹ Established habits become second nature for us and can play a role in our health journey.
Focusing on establishing new, healthy habits can help us to improve health by expanding our happiness and knowledge.⁵ Establishing healthy habits can improve longevity in ourselves by decreasing stress as well as increasing mood and biological health. Healthy habits can include:
- Eating nutritious foods
- Moving often
- Getting quality vs. quantity of sleep
- Reconnecting with yourself
The Struggle: Persistence
After deciding to add something to your routine, the real challenge begins. The most challenging part of a new routine is sticking to it long enough to become a habitual practice.² Being that we are natures of habits, we have to accept that we are prone to returning to our old habits.² It is far easier to find comfort in the aspects of our lives that we find familiar.
Even though persistence can be incredibly challenging, the overall journey is worth the ride. As mentioned, a habit becomes involuntary to your daily routine after an extended amount of time. Dr. Joel Salinas, a neurologist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, says,
"Each habit has a big effect the longer you practice it.²"
Studies have shown that establishing healthy habits can improve brain deterioration as well as lower the risk of premature death.²³
Tips to Stay Motivated
Here at Nutrition for Longevity, we recognize that creating sustainable habits can be difficult. Here are some times to help you stay motivated to create your new habits!
Determine Your Why
Understanding why you want to create a change can help to serve as a constant motivator. Having a clear understanding of all that you will gain through making this change will help prevent you from 'falling off the wagon', or giving up. Your why is uniquely and emotionally held by you, so keep it simple and clear as a constant reminder to keep going.³
Find Joy in the Journey
Dr. Alice Carcenau, a physician and professor at Hartwick College, said life is similar to an airplane- we glide either higher or lower in the sky non-sedentary.⁴ Just like an airplane, one cannot stop enjoying the view, so we must find joy in the journey as life goes on. To truly reap the benefits of healthy habits, one must find enjoyment in the path it takes to get there.
Do not be afraid to reward yourself at certain points in your journey. Asaf Mazar and Wendy Wood from the University of Southern California defined habit in psychological terms by saying “habits are context–behavior associations in memory that develop as people repeatedly experience rewards for a given action in a given context.⁵”
In order to establish true habits, we need to work in rewards to unconsciously enforce the action.⁵ Creating an incremental reward system will help motivate you and stay on track.
Remember to Rest
Arianna Huffington, a co-founder of The Huffington Post, states "if we cannot disconnect, we cannot lead. Creating a culture of burnout is the opposite of creating a culture of sustainable creativity.⁶"
This quote enhances the fact that resting and disconnecting from productivity is required to prevent burnout from happening, which destroys habit. The brain needs time to rest.⁶ A great way to prevent burnout is to create small checkpoints in your journey. Build-in days of rest and recognition after your checkpoint task is completed.⁶ Utilizing a checklist system will enforce the reward and rest that our bodies need in order to stay persistent.
Being realistic in setting goals will help you accomplish what you set out to do.³ Allowing yourself adequate time when adopting habits is imperative. Full growth and development do not happen overnight. When overcoming these challenges, be kind and patient with yourself. José Luis Sampedro, a Spanish economist, and author wrote 'time is a life.⁸'
When we rush to change, we often become lost in time. In order for habits to truly develop, we must establish realistic timelines. We must see time as a priority when accounting for change.⁸
- Habit. Merriam-Webster. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/habit. Published 2021. Accessed April 30, 2021.
- Publishing HH. Better habits, better brain health. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/better-habits-better-brain-health. Published September 2017. Accessed April 30, 2021.
- American Council on Exercise Contributor Read More Less. A Walk a Day. ACE. https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/6614/a-walk-a-day/. Published January 8, 2009. Accessed April 30, 2021.
- Ceacareanu A. Career Meeting. Zoom. 2021. Accessed April 30, 2021.
- Mazar A., Wood W. Defining Habit in Psychology. In: Verplanken B. (eds)
- Kaplan E. 7 Science-Backed Habits to Keep You Motivated Every Single Day. Inc.com. https://www.inc.com/elle-kaplan/7-science-backed-habits-to-keep-you-motivated-every-single-day.html. Published November 18, 2016. Accessed April 30, 2021
- The Psychology of Habit. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-97529-0_2 Published 2018. Accessed April 30, 2021.
- Give yourself time, but give yourself love too. https://exploringyourmind.com/time-give-yourself-love/. Published March 22, 2018. Accessed April 30, 2021.