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How To Create Sustainable Health Habits

Article written by Annie Skidmore- BSc Sport & Exercise Science Student

 

 

Ever made a New Year’s Resolution and failed after a month? Or have you always wanted to change something in your life or try something new but knew you wouldn’t be able to keep it up? Well, here are a few tips which can help you succeed when it comes to making a change for the better and how you can sustain these healthy habits, so they become a natural part of your life.

WHAT IS A HABIT?

Habits make up a key part of our behaviour and cognition [1] and they can be hard to change – especially for the better! This is because the process of behaviour change is unstable [2] and does not follow a linear pattern, so you should expect some bumps in progress along the way. However, there are various ways to help habits become sustainable. Research has shown social media to encourage youth college students to assess their eating habits and help encourage support in youth health promotion [3]. Therefore, encouragement, praise, and reassurance from others are key in creating sustainable healthy habits.

 

8 WAYS TO CREATE SUSTAINABLE HEALTHY HABITS:

  1. START WITH SOMETHING SMALL: Too many people decide to make a massive change that will take a long time to achieve. To make a change become a habit it needs to be realistic and small to then build towards your end goal.
  2. RECOGNISE & REWARD YOUR SUCCESS: Another issue when people try to make a healthy change is not recognising when they have done something new, different, or better making a step towards a permanent change. By not recognising and then rewarding this difference in behaviour you will not be able to see how far you have come and the small steps you are making to achieve success will be missed.
  3. DON’T BE TOO HARD ON YOURSELF: Whatever your goal is e.g., eat a more balanced diet, reduce screen time, improve physical and mental health or performance there will be ups and downs along the way. Some days you will smash it and others you will feel like giving up. This is all part of the process of naturally becoming a healthier version of yourself.
  4. STICK WITH IT: Like the point above there will be times you feel like quitting, times you feel you have ruined your progress or times when you think there is no point, I will never be able to make this a habit. But this is all part of the process of change. Stick with it, it will be worth it!
  5. SET SHORT-TERM GOALS: This is key to achieving your long-term goal. Regular short-term goals will help you to keep motivated towards the end goal, and will help you recognise both your successes and times when you need to maybe change things up to keep improving.
  6. SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS & GOALS WITH OTHERS: Another important piece of advice is to communicate with those around you. Tell them how you feel, what you want to achieve and how you are going to do it. They will listen and support you along the way and give you the motivation you need to achieve success.
  7. DOCUMENT YOUR PROGRESS: Whatever your goal is, recording your progress is a great way to show how your improvements, feelings, and challenges that you have faced along the way have helped and shaped you to sustain this healthy habit. This can be simply in the form of a diary, journal, or images to see your progress.
  8. REFLECT UPON YOUR PROGRESS & ACHIEVEMENTS: Tip number 7 is essential as you cannot reflect upon your progress and achievements as effectively if you have not documented them along the way! Reflection will help to see how far you have come, what changes you have made for the better and what you may need to do to allow these changes to maintain and become healthy habits.

 

REFERENCES:

[1] Smith KS, Graybiel AM. Habit formation. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience. 2016 Mar;18(1):33.

[2] Bouton ME. Why behavior change is difficult to sustain. Preventive medicine. 2014 Nov 1;68:29-36.

[3] Watanabe-Ito M, Kishi E, Shimizu Y. Promoting Healthy Eating Habits for College Students Through Creating Dietary Diaries via a Smartphone App and Social Media Interaction: Online Survey Study. JMIR mHealth and uHealth. 2020;8(3):e17613.

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