Why do so many people fail to keep themselves healthy?
There’s a lot of information out there about how to reduce joint pain, limit inflammation, improve heart health, and limit the risk and impact of chronic illness. And on the surface, it all seems pretty straightforward.
But knowing something is healthy is one thing, doing it is another. The truth is, it’s hard to implement new and healthy habits into your lifestyle.
The actions required to make these changes are often major lifestyle adjustments. Changing your eating habits after eating a particular way for decades isn’t exactly simple. Neither is adopting an exercise routine if the bulk of your life has been relatively inactive.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t replace your old habits with new ones.
Habits are a result of repeatable behavior. When you do something for long enough, the behavior can become automatic. Sitting on the sofa for hours per day, for example. Treating back pain by staying off your feet. Reaching for cookies when hungry.
Newer habits can form the same way; it’s just harder to get started. After all, you have to reprogram. But little by little, with a lot of effort, you can adopt habits that can ultimately improve your health. Here’s how.
Know what you want: Identifying the goal, and why you’re doing it, is a significant factor in achieving success. If your goal, for example, is to eat a more healthful diet to lower inflammation and improve heart health, then know why and believe in it. Simply wanting to eat better won’t provide the motivation. But trading an increased chance of heart attack for a longer, more active life is likely something you can get behind with conviction.
Set incremental goals: Using the example from above, you may have some lofty goals that underscore your decisions. But winning the daily battles is what ultimately forms new habits so you reach your longer-term goals. Setting smaller daily goals—eating another serving of fruits and vegetables, limiting soda, or getting rid of a processed snack—can all help make the right decisions more reflexive over time.
Journal and track progress: If you’re trying to implement more exercise into your life to reduce blood pressure, quell back pain, or improve circulation, then journal what you’re doing. Write down how long you walked, where you went, and how you felt. That way, when you’re feeling like you might not be making progress, you can flip back and see how far you’ve come. Also, writing your efforts down can increase accountability until you’ve formed a new habit.
Forgive yourself: If you fall off the rails for a day or two, forgive yourself and pick up where you left off. This is where it’s essential to have moved on, focus on your daily battle, and remember your long-term goal.
Teaching yourself new habits takes time, but it can be done.
Mohan Garikiparithi holds a degree in medicine from Osmania University (University of Health Sciences). He practiced clinical medicine for over a decade. During a three-year communications program in Germany, he developed an interest in German medicine (homeopathy) and other alternative systems of medicine. This article was originally published on Bel Marra Health.