Habits are at first cobwebs and then they become cables. In a series of articles on resilience Liggy Webb explores how to develop healthy habits
I would like to start by wishing you a very happy and healthy 2016.
So many of you, I am sure, will be full of enthusiasm for the fresh New Year ahead. Many resolutions will be set with all the best intentions, and many resolutions will be abandoned because you may well find yourself catapulted into catching up with all the things you left on your to do list in 2015.
It is so important however, that if you really want to achieve your resolutions that you pursue them with a grit determination. It is essentially about cultivating habits that stick. A good percentage of New Year intentions are health based, especially after the excesses of Christmas. So positive and committed focus on embedding healthy new habits will be one of the best investments you will make for the year ahead.
Over 90 per cent of your daily routine is comprised of various habits that create your behaviours. Most of these habits are performed subconsciously, which means that you are so used to doing them you do not even think about them on a conscious level!
What separates the positive and negative people is that the positive people have habits and behaviours that are conducive to success, whilst the negative people have ones that facilitate failure in their lives.
Remember: you control your habits – they do not control you. Your life is the culmination of all the daily behaviours that you have chosen. You are where you are right now because of the behaviours that you have adopted in the past.
It is important to identify which habits in your life lead to negative consequences and which lead to positive rewards. The difficulty in this sometimes has to do with instant gratification. If you change your habits, on occasions you are not going to see an immediate effect. It is for this reason that people struggle with diets or cannot stop drinking, smoking, or spending money because they cannot control the instant gratification that is delivered.
Experts in hypnosis and Neuro-Linguistic Programming, which is the art and science of personal excellence, believe that it takes around 28 days to form the basis of a new habit or behaviour. The time it takes to replace an old one is inconclusive because it depends entirely on the person and how long they have owned it.
As with any newly learned behaviour, you may well experience some internal resistance for the first week or more. This is natural and it is not going to be easy, so you have to mentally prepare for this challenge ahead of time. After you survive this first week, you will find that your new habit and behaviour becomes easier and easier to do and soon you don’t even have to think about doing it at all.
Here are a few useful tips to help you change your habits.
Do just one habit at a time
This is really important as changing habits is difficult, even with just one habit. If you do more than one habit at a time, you are setting yourself up for failure. Keep it simple, allow yourself to focus, and give yourself the best chance for success.
Make a record
Just saying you’re going to change a habit is not enough of a commitment. You need to actually record what you are going to do.
Make a plan
This will ensure you are really prepared. The plan must include your reasons and motivations for changing, obstacles, triggers, people who will support you, and other ways you are committed to being successful.
Establish strong motives
You have to be very clear why you are changing your habit. If you are doing it for someone else with no real will then you are setting yourself up to fail.
Analyse your obstacles
If you have tried to change this habit before and it has not worked, reflect on the reasons why and work out what stopped you from succeeding. Record every obstacle then create a plan of how to overcome them.
Identify your triggers
What situations trigger your current habit? Most habits have multiple triggers. Identify all of them and record them in your plan.
Ask for help
Get your family and friends and co-workers to support you. Ask them for their help, and let them know how important this is to you.
Become aware of self-talk
You talk to yourself, in your head, all the time and may not be consciously aware of what you are programming yourself with. Start listening to those thoughts because they can easily derail any habit, change or goal if you are not careful.
You may well have some negative thoughts and the most important thing is to realise when you are having them and convert them into more positive thoughts. You are totally capable of doing this.
Avoid toxic people
There will always be people who are negative, who try to get you to revert to your old habit. Be ready for them and confront them. You do not need them to try to sabotage you, you need their support, and if they can’t support you then avoid them if you can.
Create a vivid picture, in your head, where you are successfully changing your habit. Visualise yourself doing your new habit. Your subconscious does not know the difference between what is real and what is artificial, so you will project yourself into the desired state by constantly rehearsing for it.
When you succeed, you deserve to reward yourself and this will incentivise and motivate you to keep going with whatever you are trying to achieve.
Take ‘The 30 Day Challenge’
Allow about 30 days to implement a new habit. This will help you to stay focused and consistent and build a routine. This is a round number and the successful outcome will vary from person to person and habit to habit. It is very good starting point.
If you at first you do not succeed, work out what went wrong, make an improvement plan and begin again.
Wishing you lots of success with your healthy habits for 2016
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