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  • Building Healthy Habits and Motivation

    How to Establish a New Habit

    by Chris Tullo, LAC

    As we progress through the new year, many people take a moment to pause, reflect, and notice areas of their life they would like to improve or new habits they would like to establish. Perhaps you’ve decided that you want to start exercising, eat healthier, or spend more time on your side business. Like baby plants, these new habits spring up from the soil of our lives with much excitement and enthusiasm. However, when unexpected obstacles and difficulties arise, they can quickly wither and disappear.

    Is this tragic loss of healthy habits something that can be prevented? What is the secret to establishing a habit so that it takes root, grows strong, and becomes a permanent addition to the garden of your life?

    What is a Habit?

    A habit is a behavior that becomes automatic through repetition. If you’ve ever left your house and thought, “Did I lock the door?” it’s because you’ve done it so many times that you’ve started to do it without thinking too hard about it.

    Habits can be healthy or unhealthy. Healthy habits such as exercising regularly or making your bed in the morning can help you feel better and lead to other positive changes. Unhealthy habits such as procrastination or staying up too late can hinder your progress and lead to negative emotions and other problems.

    5 Reasons People Lose Motivation

    Have you ever been inspired to make a change in your life but ran out of motivation? Have you ever experienced falling back into unhealthy patterns that left you feeling defeated and discouraged? Here are some reasons why this loss of motivation can happen:

    1. Lack of Joy

    Many habits take time to show noticeable results. If you don’t see immediate progress or benefits, you may become discouraged and lose motivation.

    This is why it’s important to find joy in what you’re doing. Like Mary Poppins famously said, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” If your goal is to exercise more, think of ways to enjoy the process. Maybe try listening to your favorite music, or vary the types of activities you do. If your goal is to reduce the amount of time you spend on devices, try replacing screen-time with an activity you enjoy like reading or drawing.

    Joy is one of the best energizers and motivators we have! However, we often place imaginary restrictions on ourselves that take the joy and the fun out of what we’re doing. A good question to ask yourself is, “What would this look like if it were fun?”

    2. Lack of Clarity

    When you aren’t clear about why you’re working to establish a habit, you may struggle to stay motivated. Try asking “Why do I want to do this?” The deeper the roots of your answer, the more resilience you’ll have when facing the inevitable obstacles to come. If you write it down, you can remind yourself of that reason when you’re feeling down or demotivated.

    3. Being Overwhelmed

    Trying to make too many changes at once can lead to being overwhelmed and the desire to give up. If you’re struggling to find time to incorporate something new into your schedule, there may be too much on your plate!

    Remember that there are only so many hours in a day. An experiment you can do to find out if you’re trying to do too much is make a list of everything that is necessary in your schedule like working, eating and sleeping. Then mark down how long each item will take. After that, do the same thing with everything else in your schedule, and add fun things you would like to spend your time on. When you add everything up, you’ll see how much you’re really trying to bite off, and it might be more than there are hours in a day! Now that you see how much you’re overwhelming yourself with, remove items starting with the least important. You’ll be surprised how much better you feel with that weight off your shoulders!

    4. Rigid Thinking

    If you are thinking rigidly and placing inflexible demands on yourself, using language like “I should do this” or “I must do this,” you could actually be making it harder to bounce back from obstacles. Language like this can lead to harsh, negative thoughts and a decrease or total collapse of motivation. We can never predict how life will interfere with the habits we are trying to establish. One week you may not be feeling well, or something unexpected may happen that gets in the way of your goals. When that happens, it’s better to bend with the storm like a flexible palm tree rather than break like a rigid oak tree.

    In order to be more flexible, try thinking in “like” statements such as, “I’d like to be consistent with this habit, but it’s okay if I’m not.” Using this kind of language will help you recover from setbacks and obstacles more easily. It won’t feel like the end of the world if you miss a day at the gym, and you’ll have an easier time picking yourself up and trying again the next day.

    5. Lack of Accountability

    Without external accountability or support, you may find it easier to give up on establishing your new habit when faced with difficulties. Try finding someone who is working on establishing the same habit as you are and being each other’s accountability partner. That way, if one of you is having a rough week, the other can be a source of encouragement and support that keeps you motivated and moving forward. Iron sharpens iron, as they say!

    If you don’t know anyone who has the same goals as you, try choosing someone you trust and share your goals with them. Ask if they can monitor your progress and check in with you. Knowing that someone else is watching can help us keep ourselves from giving up or taking the easy way out.