You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.
According to the World Health Organization, 60% of the factors related to health and quality of life are correlated with lifestyle.
Making small changes to your lifestyle can have profound effects on your health, so why do people resist change even when they know it will be beneficial for their long term health?
The science behind the development of habitual or addictive behavior is rooted in our basal ganglia, the part of the brain that learns by repetition. When we are first learning something, this part of our brain becomes stimulated. As the behavior is repeated, the need for brain stimulation becomes less and less. We have formed a neural pathway in our brain that can work either for us or against us. These become our habits.
We develop habits for how we spend our time, energy, and money. Who we hang out with, how we treat our friends and family and how we treat ourselves.
The brain is looking for the path of least resistance. It makes the decisions for us. This is simpler.
Changing habitual behavior can be difficult at best and almost impossible, especially if we try to change too many things at a time. The first step, however, is becoming aware of the habits that we should probably change, and then take steps to effect that change.
Change translates into fear of the unknown. But did you know that most of our fear is learned behavior?
If it is learned, then it can also be unlearned.
Think about something that you want to change. How does it make you feel?
- Do you get some anxiety?
- Do you feel some tension in your chest?
- Does your stomach turn into knots or do you get excited?
- Do you feel like it is in your control or out of your control?
When you view change as something fearful or scary that is how your body reacts. If you view it as a positive opportunity to grow and embrace it, well that is how your body reacts.
7 things to consider when making lifestyle changes:
1. Tackle things one at a time
When you open the box to a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle, you don’t just dump it on the table and magically all the pieces fit together. You start out by finding the corners, then the edges and then work with similar colors or shapes to fit the pieces together. Lifestyle changes are very much the same. Small changes over time add up. Start out with the corners or cornerstones to build on...the rest will start to come together.
2. Set realistic and achievable goals
These goals give you some daily/weekly direction and are small enough to see and feel change but not so small that they don’t stretch you and force your brain to be stimulated to change.
3. Find an accountability partner
This can be a friend, family member or significant other. There should be some type of mutual support and not one person judging someone for slipping up or waiting to nail them for reverting to an old habit. Set up some basic rules to follow creating a supportive environment for change and growth to happen.
4. Track your progress
We often forget where we started and how far we have come. We like to be our own worst critic and fail to celebrate the small victories only waiting for the big milestones...which we also like to keep pushing further and further away.
5. Celebrate the small victories along the way
Recognize what you are doing well. This will help reinforce the new neural pathways while unlearning old habits that were unhealthy.
6. Learn what works for you
There is no one size fits all approach. Be open and flexible listening to what has worked for others. Take some of their ideas and incorporate them into your model...it just might work but if it doesn’t, it doesn’t mean you failed, it just means it wasn’t the right piece for you.
7. Find your why
I know it might sound cliche, but we’ve all been motivated for short periods of time until that shiny object quickly loses its luster and goals become less alluring. Having a clear understanding of your why will keep you pushing forward on those hard days, when you run into someone who disagrees with you, or when you just need to ramp things up to another level.
“Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion” - Simon Sinek
We’ve all been told that getting started is the hardest part, but it doesn’t have to be. At the end of the day, just the slightest change can spark your entire journey.