According to some researchers in the field of neurobiology and cognitive psychology, 40 to 70 percent of our actions, beliefs, and things we say are purely based on habit.
This is quite incredible to think about because it means that nearly (or over) half of what we do, think, and say is automatic. So, understanding how to build better habits can prove to be the most important thing we can do to better our health and fitness.
Because of that, we’ve put together a list of four strategies you can use to adopt better health habits.
Make Gradual Behavioral Changes
One of the biggest problems with lifestyle change and adopting better habits has to do with the fact that most folks make huge changes overnight. After all, incredibly demanding beginner training programs, overly-restrictive diets, and cleansing plans are quite popular these days.
But we are creatures of habit, and we don’t fare well on large-scale and sudden changes. This is why you need to introduce new behaviors gradually. Start slowly, and make things so easy you can’t say no.
Rather than put yourself on a restrictive diet, start with a single healthy meal per day. Rather than starting a demanding training program, begin with five to ten minutes of exercise every day.
If you introduce positive behaviors conservatively (again, so easy you can’t say no), you are setting yourself up for success. Over time, you can gradually scale it up. One healthy meal can turn to two. Five to ten minutes of exercise can go up to twenty. Reading five pages of a self-help book can turn to 10, 15, or even 20.
But it’s important to lay the foundation first. Walk before you can run.
Have a Plan to Get Back On Track
When it comes to health and fitness, many people have the all or nothing mentality. If they can’t be perfect all the time, they might as well not bother.
The fact is, we are human, and sometimes life gets in the way. We can’t always follow through with our positive behaviors, and that’s okay. Even the most successful people in the world fail sometimes. But what matters more is how you deal with a slip-up or setback.
Interestingly, research has shown that missing a positive behavior once doesn’t have much of an impact on your long-term progress. One unhealthy meal in the face of twenty healthy ones doesn’t matter. One missed workout in the face of training fifty times won’t destroy your progress. The issue comes when you create a chain of slip-ups and fall off the track completely.
So, rather than dwell on a slip-up when it happens, you should aim to get back on track as quickly as possible.
Of course, this is not to say that you should expect to slip up and fail. Recognize that this is a possibility, understand that it’s not the end of the world, and move on by keeping the chain of positive behaviors (mostly) unbroken.
Make Positive Behaviors Easy, and Negative Ones Difficult
Much like with large-scale changes, we often try to solidify better habits as we go against the grain. But this creates unnecessary friction and makes it much less likely for us to succeed.
But, what does this mean, exactly?
For example, trying to eat healthy while having lots of unhealthy and high-calorie foods in your kitchen. Or trying to become more active and exercise regularly, but making the trip to the gym unnecessarily difficult. There are many other examples of how we design our environment in a way that makes positive behaviors difficult.
Do you want to read more? Place a book on your nightstand and take the TV out of your bedroom. Do you want to exercise regularly? Make the trip to the gym easier. For example, prepare everything you need in a bag and go for a workout on your way home after work. Do you want to eat healthily? Replace unhealthy foods at home with nutritious alternatives.
These changes not only make positive behaviors easier – but they also make negative ones difficult. It would be difficult not to read every day if the book is right there and there’s no TV to distract you. It would be difficult to avoid working out if you make the gym trip convenient. It would be difficult to eat unhealthy foods if there aren’t any at home.
Do Things At a Sustainable Pace and Avoid The ‘Quick Fix’ Mentality
Reading five pages of self-help material per day doesn’t sound like much, but that simple act translates to 1825 pages in a year or six average-sized books. Ten minutes of daily exercise? That’s 3650 minutes or about 61 hours in a year.
You see, we are often so caught up in large-scale changes and quick results that we forget just how impactful our small choices can be. In life, fitness, finances, and everything else, what matters most is that you do things at a sustainable pace. This is highly individual, and no two people have the same situation.
And sure, this doesn’t sound as sexy, and it certainly doesn’t sell eBooks, but it’s a fact of life. It’s much better to do things at a sustainable pace and follow through year-round than to go all-out for a month and give up.
Plus, seeing as your habits should feel easy in the beginning, you have no reason to go for the quick fix mentality, especially with regards to your health and fitness.
Article by Philip Stefanov
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this article and that it has helped you in becoming a leaner, stronger, healthier version of yourself.
Please feel free to comment below with your thoughts and/or opinions, as well as what your experience with developing effective health strategies has been.
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Thank you for reading and good luck with all of your fitness goals!