Developing My Daily Do-list – the Power of Healthy Habits
Here’s what has worked for me and I think they’ll work for you too.
Hints for Healthy Habits
Choose just 1 or 2 behaviors to start with–at least one should be ‘easy’ so that you remind yourself that you can succeed in choosing health.
Identify some frequent (daily) triggers or cues to which you can add your new habit(s)
Write your habits down–keep them positive, present and specific (see examples below)
Reward yourself with frequent, timely, relevant, fun, meaningfully happy rewards–bigger rewards for harder behaviors and for sticking with things for longer time frames.
Take a minute and think of what you love to do, what you enjoy, activities that make you smile, that bring out the best and most authentic parts of who you are. These are GREAT for rewards.
Sample Habits – Positive and Present
I purchase, prepare, and eat on plan foods to build my healthy body and mind
I drink 16 glasses of water each day
I strengthen my spirit with positive thoughts and service to others every day
Additional thoughts – my story
Over the past several years I have chosen to focus on the positive rather than the negatives – my “daily dos” (instead of do nots) – on including things in my life and focusing on being grateful for what I do have rather than eliminating negatives and filling my thoughts with what I lack.
This practice (and it does take practice and effort, especially at first if you are used to looking at the lacks or negatives) of building healthy habits has been key to changing my behaviors, my attitudes, and my relationship with food and losing weight. It helps me to get back on track when I have a time of choosing not the best things–next choice I have, I choose as healthy as I can and don’t let my off plan choices de-rail me from the positive path I’m on.
In my research (favorite sources below) I found lots of similar ideas expressed in many different terms. Here are some basics of behavior modification–actions usually have a cue or trigger, the behavior, and then a reward/consequence. The more healthy habits you can build into your daily do list–the more automatic you can make them–the easier the plan becomes–and the more brain power you get to use on other things (like resisting temptation when it comes–or even better, what you can do to make a bigger difference in the lives of other people).
Applicable studies/words from experts
Starting in the 1960s, Dr Maxwell Maltz, in his book Psycho-Cybernetics, pointed out that he saw that most people he worked with took AT LEAST 21 days for new information or activities to become habit or ‘xxx’ Over the years as people misquoted his studies – they shortened it to ‘it takes 21 days to gain a new habit. Well – I too had heard that from many sources and felt like a failure cause it just didn’t work for me with most things that I tried.
Then I found more recent (2009) studies at Univeristy College London by Lally that rang truer for me and my experience. They found that it really depends on the person and what they are trying to make ‘automatic’–and how close it is to things they are already doing or believing. They found that it takes most folks between 18 (for easy things) and 254 days (for really hard things) – and that most folks could start to feel like activities were becoming automatic in about 66 days.
That I can do–that’s a little less than 10 weeks–which is why the healthy Habit Tracker chart I have linked below is for 10 weeks (5 lines of 14 boxes)–that to me is do-able, not overwhelming. I also have one that is a bit over 100 days–cause that seems to be a common number for folks (100 days, 100 lbs, etc.) so that one is 10 by 10 so you can use it for anything you want to count 100 of 🙂
Additional reading for more info or a different point of view:
Breaking bad habits more successful when replacing them with new good habits: http://www.hopesandfears.com/hopes/now/question/216479-how-long-does-it-really-take-to-break-a-habit