If, as the year is coming to a close, you find yourself asking where do I start changing my life? or simply want to learn how to change your lifestyle to be healthy – it doesn’t have to be as difficult as you might think. Creating change in your life is a marathon, not a sprint – and it all starts with building new, positive habits into your routine. How? you may ask. Well, here are our top tips for creating simple, positive habits that last.
Choose 5 things you would like to change about your life in 2023
If you’re trying to figure out how to change your life, or an aspect of it, don’t focus on quitting your bad habits. Instead, focus on the new positive habits that you’d like to build in place of them. Try to start small: choose no more than five habits that you feel really passionately about. In an interview with Harvard Health, Margaret Moore (co-director of the Institute of Coaching McLean Hospital) recommends rating your motivation to change a habit on a scale of 1-10, only moving ahead with trying to create a new habit if you score a minimum of 6 on the scale.
"This is the foundation you need to be successful," she says.
Try habit stacking
Created by author S.J Scott in his book Habit Stacking: 97 Small Life Changes that take Five Minutes or Less, the concept of habit stacking really is quite simple. Select a habit you’ve already firmly formed (like brushing your teeth, drinking a morning coffee or taking the dog for a walk) and add the new habit you’re trying to create on top of it – so that the new habit becomes attached to the old one. Even better, try to attach your new habit to an old one in the same location every day. Research has found that around 45% of our daily behaviors tend to occur in the same location - and a significant amount of our daily actions are habitual.
Make it enjoyable
Sure, you can prove your resilience and grit by attempting a daunting new habit day-in and day-out without any immediate reward – or, you could have some fun with it. Research suggests the latter approach: immediately rewarding yourself for carrying out a habit-in-the-making rather than waiting for the long-term rewards has been shown to increase persistence within a variety of settings. For example, if your goal involves improving your fitness: choose an exercise you enjoy. If your new habit is important to you but not particularly enjoyable, try listening to some of your favorite music at the same time. If the research is right, you’ll find it easier to maintain the habit you’re trying to build.
Involve the right people
If you’re surrounded by people who discourage you from going after your new healthy habits – you might need to start hanging out with a new crowd. In 2019, BBC reported on just how easily our habits can be influenced by our social interactions: our eating habits are influenced by those we eat around, our environmental views can easily be influenced by a stranger sitting next to us, how relaxed we are about protecting ourselves from sun exposure depends on our peers and, importantly, how we act on or ignore new information about taking care of our health and wellbeing depends on how our friends influence us. So, surround yourself with people who are going to help you to build good habits rather than unhealthy ones.
Be patient with yourself
There’s a long-running rumor that it only takes 21 days to build a new habit. The truth? Research has found that it can take anywhere between 18-254 days to build a new habit. So, if your habit-in-the-making isn’t sticking yet, stick with it. Take small steps, make it fun, habit stack and surround yourself with positive people. Chances are, come 2024, your new habit will be well engrained – creating a positive ripple effect throughout multiple areas of your life.