By Sailee Thakur, PsyD
TriHealth Behavioral Health Consultant
The Family Medical Group
Almost everyone has faced the challenge of developing a new habit. Whether it’s decreasing unhealthy behaviors, increasing healthy behaviors, making more time for social activities or family time, change is hard. However, there are strategies to forming and maintaining a new habit that could help make the process easier and more successful.
- Choose wisely: Set yourself up for success by choosing one behavior goal at a time. While you may have multiple changes you want to make, it is easy to become overwhelmed. Finding success early will help you gain confidence.
- Define clear and specific goals: When creating a new habit, it is important to first write down your SMART goal. A SMART goal is Specific, Measureable, Action-based, Realistic, and Time-limited.The clearer your goal is, the more likely you will succeed in implementing your new habit. To exercise more frequently, your SMART goal might look like this:Over the next 3 months, I will walk three times per week for 30 minutes outside or at the gym.
- Eliminate obstacles to success: Anticipating and removing obstacles will help facilitate your new habit. To simplify working out in the mornings, begin setting out your clothes and shoes the night before.To reduce refined sugar in your diet, replace that box of donuts on your kitchen counter with a fruit basket.To increase hydration or physical activity during the workday, set a reminder on your phone. Making small changes to your environment can help to support your new behaviors and help you progress toward your goals.
- Track your progress and monitor relapse into old behaviors: Keeping track of your progress is a good way to stay focused on your goals and recognize any old behavior patterns that might get in the way of maintaining the new habit. For example, using an app to record your calorie intake or exercise provides accountability and a visual record of steps toward your goal. Recording daily tobacco use can help identify specific times in the day where it was more difficult to stop smoking. No matter what behavior you are working to change, it is important to be mindful of triggers which could include thoughts, emotions, situations, or people that could push you toward old habits.
While changing behaviors can be challenging, there is good news.Adopting healthier habits may help to prevent serious chronic disease and improve your quality of life. Adequate sleep, a healthy diet and regular exercise are three key modifiable lifestyles factors to optimizing physical and mental health. Small changes can have a big impact!