Seven Steps To Fast Track Healthy Habits

Most of us know what we need to do to be healthier—but finding the motivation to actually do what we need to do is another matter entirely. Seven steps can help turn good intentions into beneficial actions.

We would all rather avoid health problems. We know that if we exercise regularly, eat nutritious meals, and steer clear of unhealthy habits—like smoking, we will reap returns in improved health. And yet, it’s hard to get off the couch and lace up our running shoes. That first—or second—helping of ice cream is tough to resist. Giving in to the comfort of the moment can prevent us from making the changes that lead to a healthy future.

The good news is that we can transform bad habits into good ones. One small victory repeated over time can put us on the path to enhanced health, improved longevity, and increased self-esteem. Whether your goal is a better diet, a regular exercise program, or another health-minded objective, try using these steps to turn inspiration into a new healthy habit:

  • Accept the fact that change won’t be comfortable. We resist change; it’s easier to do what we already know. When we come to terms with the fact that our goal is going to require some discomfort, it’s easier to move forward.
  • Make a plan. Set your start date, identify the steps you plan to take, and track your progress. Don’t give yourself permission to wait until things are easier. Once you make your plan, commit yourself to following it.
  • Be realistic. Our bodies respond best to gradual change, so take it slow. When you plan for incremental change, you will lower your risk of injury, and you’ll be less likely to get discouraged and quit.
  • Motivate yourself with meaningful incentives. Are you more willing to walk in the morning if you have a partner waiting to walk with you? Will a periodic reward make you more likely to stick to your program? Creating a compelling reason to stick with your plan increases the likelihood that you’ll continue.
  • List the benefits you are after, and refer to them when the going gets tough. Everyone’s resolve falters. If you can remind yourself that your lunch salad will mean a smaller dress size, or that your walking program will make your joints less painful, you’ll have a concrete, immediate reason not to quit.
  • Avoid temptation. If you are dieting, stop buying the unhealthy foods that tempt you. If you want to cut down on your alcohol consumption, stock the fridge with your favorite sparkling water or iced tea. Use the money you would have spent on temptations to reward yourself with a treat that celebrates your success.
  • Remember that you are on a journey—not a quick sprint. Behavioral change happens slowly. When you do reach your goal, make a new plan to maintain the habits that brought you to success. That way, there’s less chance that you’ll slip back into the poor habits that got you into trouble in the first place.

It takes time to transform a bad routine into a healthy habit. If you set a realistic goal and pursue it methodically, you may be surprised at the positive changes you are able to achieve—and maintain.

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