Creating New Habits

Have you ever tried to create a new habit when it comes to exercising, eating, or even working on yourself? And have you ever tried this and have it fail? I think we have all been there before, and it can be frustrating, defeating, and all together difficult. Good news! I have done some extensive research on how to create a new healthy habit that will bring you closer to those goals you are trying to achieve, and create a longterm result.

In this article I'm going to discuss:

1. The definition of a habit

2. What influences a habit

3. Two types of habits

4. Types of thinking when it comes to eating

5. The characteristics of a healthy eater

6.Tips to conscious eating

7. Characteristics you need to create a new habit

8. Steps to Creating a New Habit

We got a lot to dive into so let's get started!!

1. The Definition of a Habit

A habit can be defined as "Actions that are triggered automatically in response to contextual cues that have been associated with their performance." (Making health habitual- British Journal of General Practice)

Okay, so if your like me, I want things in simple form please! A habit is "Thoughts or activities we repeat again and again.

2.What Influences a Habit?

Now that we understand the definition of a habit, we need to know the factors that influence a habit. There are four of them.

1. Cultural norms- This is anything that society tells us to be true, what we accept as a society, and what we have learned as a society.

2. Environmental Messages- This is what is being promotes around us. TV commercials, billboards, social media, etc...

3. Societal Pressures- These are the pressures we feel from society to look, act or be a certain way as a person.

4. Family Issues- Many struggles when it comes to eating, health, and negative habits stem from a poor family environment or upbringing.

(Michael Mantell- Is there psychology behind healthy eating?)

3.Two Types of Habits

When it comes to habits there are two types involved. These are negative habits or positive habits. The negative habits are those that we do without even thinking. They are automatic, mechanical, and subconscious. These habits are also energy drainers, physically and emotionally harming to our bodies, as well as they go against what we want or do not propel us towards our end goals.

The positive habits are the opposite of these. They give us energy, they physically and emotionally benefit us, they bring us closer to our goals, they also take intentionality and awareness. I don't know about you, but I would rather have more positive than negative habits.

(The Simple Psychology of Habits- Institute for Psychology of Eating)

4. Types of Thinking When it Comes to Eating

The main point of this article is to help you create healthy habits revolving around the subjects of eating as well as exercise. Let's dive into some of the thinkings that we have developed when it comes to eating.

1. Justification- This is the thinking we have when we come home from a long day, and we say "I've had a bad day, I deserve a piece of cake." Now, don't get me wrong I am 100% guilty of this! But, the issue her is if we constantly use this to justify our negative eating habits, we will never progress! Having a "Treat yo self" mentality every once and a while is fine, but it shouldn't be when we are using it to escape or cope with an emotion.

2. Exaggerated- AKA the drama queen or the drama king of the thinkings. Let's say we go to Olive Garden and we eat 12 breadsticks. Then after we do that we say "I have zero willpower!" This is the exaggerated thinking being put into words. YOU HAVE WILLPOWER! We have to stop lying to ourselves saying we don't have the willpower to not eat something, because we do. We simply take this over exaggerated thought and use it to eat more of something. Trust me, if your "why" is strong enough you will have willpower.

3. All or nNothing- So, you had a cookie at work... or a couple. When we have an all or nothing mentality we say to ourselves, "well I already had a couple cookies, I mine as well eat however I want the rest of the day." WRONG! So what, you had a couple cookies, it doesn't mean that has to dictate the rest of your day. Get back on track, don't throw the rest of the day away, and move on.

4. Unhelpful Rules- Has your mom ever told you as a kid that you can't leave the table until you have eaten all of your food?

Well, we have begun to adopt this into our thinking now even as adults. So we feel like when we go out to eat, we have to eat everything on our plate. Or have you ever said to yourself "good foods have fewer calories." While this may be true, too much of a good thing is no longer a good thing. At the end of the day calories are calories. So, even if you are eating 3,000 calories of "good foods" you are still overeating and will continue to gain weight.

(Michael Mantell- Is there psychology behind healthy eating?)

5. Characteristics of a Healthy Eater

So, you wanna become a healthy eater? Now that we have addressed habits, our thinkings, and our influences we need to address the psychology behind a healthy eater, for you to understand where you mentally need to be in order to be one.

Healthy eaters are what we call conscious and aware eaters. They eat because they want to benefit their body. Their purpose of eating is health. They...

1. Recognize emotional triggers

2. Stop eating when they are full and don't eat when they aren't hungry

3. Are internally driven rather than externally driven

4. Don't eat to meet an emotional need or to escape an emotion

(Michael Mantell- Is there psychology behind healthy eating?)

Ben Franklin said it best, "One should eat to live, not live to eat."

Are you lacking in one of these areas? Be honest with yourself, get real with you. Are you living to eat? Or are you eating to live?

6.Tips to Conscious Eating

Here are 9 tips for you to begin to be a conscious eater:

1. Decide how much you are going to eat before eating

2. When eating a larger meal, use a smaller plate

3. Move healthy foods to eye level in your pantry

4. Always eat in the kitchen or dining room

5. Be the last person to start eating at group meals

6. Eat slowly and put your utensils down in between bites

7. Make excessive snacking and going for seconds a major inconvenience

8. Never eat "dangerous" foods at home

9. Quality over quantity

(Michael Mantell- Is there psychology behind healthy eating?)

7. Characteristics You Need to Create a New Habit

Now, let's move into creating new habits for you! If you want to become a healthy habit creator, here are some characteristics you are going to need to be successful.

1. Highly Motivated- Establishing a strong "why" is going to be the foundation to this new habit. You have to want whatever habit you are creating for a strong reason. You can't go into the new habit creation process only giving 50%. You have to be ALL IN!

2. Select a New Behavior- This is critical. We are not trying to quit cold turkey on an old habit, we are creating a NEW one. So, select something that will be added to your routine. This will naturally replace an old habit without even thinking about it.

3. Trust the Process- You have to recognize that these things take time. Research shows that within 10 weeks you should begin to notice that you are successfully doing this new habit without even thinking. Also realize that by creating one new small habit, this will increase your confidence as well as begin a ripple effect, that desires to create more new habits.

8. Steps to Creating a New Habit

Alright, now that we understand habits more, and the psychology behind them, it's time to give you the steps to create your own new healthy habit!!

1. Decide on a goal that you would like to achieve for your health- Make it specific! Simply saying that you "want to exercise more," is less likely to be achieved. Compared to saying, "Every day after work, I am going to come home, change into my workout clothes, and exercise for 30 minutes." This is very specific and clear, and likely to be achieved.

2. Choose a simple action that will get you towards your goal, and you can do on a daily basis- Example, after breakfast every morning, I am going to drink 24 ounces of water. The goal is to drink more water, the daily encounter is breakfast, the specific action is drink 24 ounces of water.

3. Plan when and where you will do your chosen action- You want to be consistent and choose something that you will encounter every single day of the week. Example, When I wake up in the morning, I am going to put workout clothes on, and go workout for 30 minutes. You encounter waking up every morning and the goal is specific.

4. DO THE ACTION! - Seems like a no brainer, but when you set these goals, you have to do them in order to achieve them. This is where your why comes into play, your clarity, your desire, and your intentionality behind your goals.

Don't worry, it get's easier with time and soon enough you will be successfully achieving your goal without having to think about it. The important thing is you stick with it and realize that these healthy habits will help you in the long run.

(Making health habitual- British Journal of General Practice)



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