How To Change Your Habits And Make Them Stick
Making progress and maintaining it for the long term
The month of January is here …
A new year, a new beginning. Every time the month of January comes around, I tend to feel motivated to work on myself and start a new year with a fresh slate.
Thus, I start working on establishing better habits in different areas of my life, such as health and fitness.
Do you do that too?
Then, I start working hard to create positive habits and replacing the old, not so beneficial habits in my life. I start and create positive momentum by following these habits consistently.
However, through the years, I have learned that there’s a challenge in sustaining that positive momentum as time goes on.
For instance, you may start going to the gym five times a week in January, but as April rolls around, you barely go once a week.
Why is that?
No worries, that happens to me as well.
As a result, I have learned ways to set up myself for success and keep me on following through my positive habits for a sustained period. Thus, keeping myself on track towards the life I desire.
So, I wanted to share with you the things that have worked for me.
Practice Self Compassion
The first thing I have learned is not to be too hard on myself when I fall off track performing my positive habits. This helps me a lot to get back on track with my positive habits.
How To Get Back On Track With Your Positive Habits
Make a commitment, don’t be too hard on yourself and start small.
I have accepted that I am human and that I am not perfect. Thus, I know I might lose motivation once in a while.
And that is okay. We may encounter tough situations in life, and we might face challenges in different areas of our lives. Have some empathy towards yourself as you would to others.
For example, unexpected death in the family, a loss of a job, financial stress, and other worries.
“Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others.”
So, it’s acceptable that we may stop doing our positive habits for some time. However, the key is to be self-aware when you are falling off track too much and pick yourself back up.
I know it may be hard to develop this self-awareness, but it’s worth it in the end. But, it all starts with self-compassion.
Having self-compassion may help you stay in a positive mindset and opens the door to developing the courage and strength you need to get back on track.
Use Your Environment To Your Favor
This has been, by far, one of the biggest lessons in my life when it comes to sustaining positive habits.
As the day goes on, I sometimes go on react mode. I start doing things as they come up instead of doing the things that I had planned.
One thing that has helped me stop reacting to things during the day and sustain my positive habits is to use my environment to my advantage to remind me to do my positive habits.
That is, designing my environment so I could reduce friction to do my positive habits. I achieved this by removing any obstacles that might keep me from practicing my positive habits.
Here are examples of ways I have done to use my environment, that you can do too:
- Set reminders on your phone and computer.
- Use apps to track your habits on your phone.
- Place your workout clothes next to your bed.
- Put positive posters on your bedroom wall.
- Cook healthy meals and place the leftovers on the front side of your fridge.
- Put a book on your nightstand.
- Listen to audiobooks during your commute to work.
- Go to a gym close or on your way to work.
The idea is to make things easier for you to do these positive habits. Also, using queues in your environment to remind you to do your positive habits when life gets hectic.
Have Systems In Place
I believe that having systems in place that help you do your habits is the key to keep practicing your positive habits in the long term.
The way that has worked the best for me is by developing a routine. At first, it’s a little hard for me to practice my positive habits, but once I get the ball rolling, then it’s easier for me to keep going.
Moreover, when life gets hectic, and I have things on my plate, I sometimes get a feeling of familiarity. That is, naturally, I get this feeling of “Mmmm something is off.”
This happens to me when exercising. After a few days pass and I have not exercised, I get this feeling, and I get back to working out again. I notice that I get stressed out easily, and my mood is a little off.
“If you believe you can change — if you make it a habit — the change becomes real.”
― Charles Duhigg
So, I use these feelings as queues to exercise.
However, it was not always like this. I had to work hard and build up my routine to the point when exercising was a part of my life.
Here are some things I did to develop systems and make them a part of my routine:
- Cook meals for the week every Sunday.
- Wake up at the same time every morning.
- Exercise the same days at the same time.
- Go to bed at the same time every night (try to).
- Use to-do list apps on my phone and computer.
- Separate the time blocks on your planner with the tasks you want to make a habit.
By having systems in place and use them regularly, I start building the habits that I want to do and help me move towards the life I desire. The systems helped me automate my positive practices.
Practicing self-compassion can open the door to a positive mindset and may help get back on track with your positive habits. So, don’t invest time in being hard on yourself; it is not worth it.
Use your environment to your advantage. Arrange things in a way that makes it easier for you to keep practicing your positive habits.
Create systems and make them a part of your daily routine. Repeat this routine until it becomes a habit. By doing this, you are most likely to sustain the progress you have made in the long term.
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Disclaimer: I am not a mental health, fitness or counseling professional. These tips and advice are based on my experience and opinion as a student, tutor, teacher, and software developer. Everyone is different, so, the advice shared in this article may or may not work for you.