Why Building One Healthy Habit at a Time Helps You Stick with Them
Most of us understand that lasting happiness comes from the inside. Healthy habits help you feel content with your life, stay healthy, and have an optimistic outlook.
Unfortunately, many people begin new healthy habits only when they have hit rock bottom. Perfectionists, high-achievers, ambitious students, working mothers – stressed-out people from many walks of life who have reached a point when their emotional, mental, or behavioral issues have become so distressing that they feel completely drained.
So, start adopting one healthy habit at a time to avoid burnout and become happier with where you are in life. Simple daily routines like mindfulness, going for a walk, cooking a healthy meal for your family, or spending the day at the beach may boost your happy hormones, improving your mood and well-being.
How Do We Form Habits?
Habits are routine behaviors that people perform virtually without thinking because of the reinforcement they receive. Behaviors that are pleasurable or followed by a reward are more likely to be repeated regularly and become a habit.
When we learn or memorize something new, our brain creates new connections between neurons. This ability of the brain to change through time is referred to as neuroplasticity.
Performing an activity repeatedly causes the brain networks to adapt to reflect that activity. So, when we learn a new behavior, our brain rewires itself to prepare for the new information by activating different parts of the brain.
Repetitive action strengthens the connections between the neurons. Through a process called myelination, repetition, and practice help our brain optimize for this coordinated activity. As a result of repetition, an action becomes automatic and turns into a habit.
What Makes a Habit ‘Good’ or ‘Bad’
Good habits benefit our mental and physical health, productivity, relationships, and overall well-being. A healthy diet, regular exercise, writing in a journal, or spending time in nature are all examples of good habits.
Repetitive behaviors that have negative short-term or long-term consequences are considered bad habits. Some examples of harmful behaviors include smoking, eating junk food, drinking alcohol, taking drugs, spending too much time in front of screens, and not getting enough rest. While some of these behaviors may provide short-term relief, they may be detrimental to your health and well-being in the long run.
According to the author of The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg, every habit has three parts.
- Cue or trigger: for example, you feel depressed/see delicious cake in the sweet store window.
- Routine or behavior itself: you go for a run/buy the whole cake and devour it at home.
- Reward or a positive result that follows a behavior: you feel happy and content.
Depending on your routine or behavior, these habits can be either healthy or damaging.
Why is Sticking to New, Healthier Habits So Difficult?
Some bad habits are resistant to change, and replacing them with healthy habits may be challenging.
When we engage in harmful behaviors, such as consuming alcohol, a specific reward area in our brain is triggered, resulting in the release of neurochemicals such as oxytocin, dopamine, and endorphins. These “feel good” chemicals subsequently flood our brain and circulation, eliciting a pleasant sensation and enhancing our mood.
Unfortunately, people become hooked on this chemical response, which makes it difficult to abandon the behavior and replace it with healthier alternatives (that initially give no such pleasure).
Also, when we consciously try to start healthy habits, we like to leap right in. For example, you could have decided to start working out more frequently. So, you sign up with a fitness center, start running regularly, and join a cycling group in your area. Then, feeling overwhelmed after a short time, you give up and return to your old (unhealthy) habits.
Why Building One Healthy Habit at a Time Helps You Stick with Them?
We’ve already mentioned how drastic changes to our routine can be overwhelming and make it hard to stick to a new habit.
Similar to introducing new foods to a baby, new habits must be established gradually. If you give the child too many different foods at once, they could become overwhelmed and develop a severe allergy. Likewise, you might feel overwhelmed and become averse toward a new behavior if you start several new habits at once.
Starting small and focusing on one healthy habit at a time may help the behavior become more easily established.
It Allows You to Start Small
Focusing on one healthy habit at a time helps you set small, easily achievable goals that will keep you motivated and make the habit stick. For instance, if you want to exercise more, start with a light aerobic exercise, yoga, or a 20-minute fast walk and progress slowly.
It’s Easier to Combine with Your Existing Habits
Introducing one healthy habit at a time allows you to blend it into your existing behaviors (also known as habit stacking), making it easier for a new habit to take root.
For example, if you aim to practice gratitude each day, start by mixing gratitude practice with your daily routine – focus on three things you are grateful for while preparing your morning coffee, taking the subway, or relaxing in the tub in the evening. Integrating a new habit into an existing one makes achieving goals and maintaining change in behavior easier.
Roadblocks and Failure Become More Manageable
Starting one healthy habit at a time makes it easier to determine your goals. When you have a vision of what you want to achieve, it may be easier to remove obstacles. Also, when you start small, obstructions to your new behavior can be more manageable.
It Allows You to Build on Your Successes in a Natural Way
Starting one healthy habit at a time seems more natural than introducing numerous new behaviors. When you start small, it is easier to reap the benefits of the new habit’s beneficial transformation, which will help you feel more confident and happier.
You CAN Develop and Stick with Healthy Habits
Changing behavior is possible. It is always possible to make healthy changes and develop new habits that will benefit you physically, mentally, spiritually, or emotionally.
A coach can help you determine your goals, determine what’s getting in the way, and deal with any underlying problems. This will make forming new habits more manageable and more likely to work.If you want to learn how to focus on one habit at a time and start changing your life, contact me to set up a free empowering conversation.