At some point or another, we have all decided that we needed new habits. Perhaps you didn’t like the person you saw in the mirror, and that inspired you to lose weight. You first assessed your nutrition and exercise habits, which brought you to the conclusion that you needed to change a number of patterns. As a result, you cut out a significant amount of food, much of which you dreaded losing from your diet. You likely also decided that starting the very next day, you will get out for a run.
In the process, you realized your old habits were no longer serving you and would never dream of going back to them. However, problems arose upon actually trying to implement those changes.
For example, cooking healthier meals would require a trip to the grocery store and knowledge about healthy recipes. Going for a run would be hard to fit into a busy schedule, so it would necessitate getting up earlier. In order to get up earlier and be able to function, it would be necessary to go to bed earlier, which would disrupt other aspects of the nightly routine. Coping with newfound fatigue would prompt the use of more coffee. Unfortunately, there is no room in the diet for sugar or cream, making it hard to scarf down. It also may be necessary to buy new shorts or shoes to support the running habit, necessitating a trip to the store.
What Makes Habit-Forming Hard?
With all of these barriers and inconveniences piling up, the goals we set quickly become more challenging. Instead of getting right into exciting new habits, we have to fulfill prerequisites that take up time and energy. By the time we get it all done, we may not even feel like going through with our plan. We might even decide midway through preparing that we cannot make this work and decide to lose weight another time. It may also be the case that we do manage to get everything together and start preparing healthy meals and working out, but we are not able to keep up with it long-term.
We might be tempted to drop everything and try to change every undesirable habit at once. This is an ambitious and well-intentioned plan, but it is ill-fated. No matter how motivated we are initially, starting and maintaining a healthy habit requires dedication and patience.
There is a lot of frustration involved, especially when those habits do not immediately stick and become second nature. The average amount of time it takes to solidify a habit is 66 days, although the range is 18-254 days. Unfortunately, two days in a row of exercise will not manifest an unfaltering habit. Attempting too many new changes at once, as described in the scenario above, can also present barriers to success.
Making Change Easier
Fortunately, there are ways to approach habit-building that increase the odds of success. Some tips include the following:
Do New Habit With Other Rituals
For example, you can connect a new habit to an established habit. If you want to incorporate some movement into your morning and have decided that planks are the way to go, you can tie that to brushing your teeth. Every morning — before or after brushing your teeth — do a plank, creating a feedback system telling you to remember your new habit every time you engage in the established one.
Growing habits also need to be done as much as possible to develop, which is ideally every day. This principle underscores the necessity of approaching this new task with a realistic mindset. You might want to cut out every unhealthy element of your diet, but that is probably not sustainable. Cutting down slowly — such as by first lessening the amount of junk food you consume and adding healthier alternatives — will set you up to eliminate those undesired foods in the future.
Focus On One at a Time
We are often tempted to make big changes right away, but in order for them to be lasting, we need to set the foundation for them. Additionally, you should focus on one new habit at a time. You might want to completely overturn your diet and exercise regimen, but many sudden changes can hinder you rather than lead to the transformation you were probably envisioning. Instead, you can build on habits, such as using a new sleep schedule to give you the energy to work out every day.
Strengthen Your Recovery
If you are in recovery from addiction, you know that losing old habits and developing new ones is essential but far from easy. Now that you are getting closer to living a life free from substances, you can make other lasting changes to support all aspects of your health. Our minds and bodies are closely connected, meaning that a beneficial change to one can positively impact the other. Investing in healthier habits like better sleep, diet, and exercise is an investment in sustained recovery.
Life in recovery requires a significant amount of changes, some of which are big and some small. While stopping substance use is certainly the most life-altering change, there are many other smaller ones that support wellness. Making changes to your diet, exercise, sleep, and other basic elements in your daily routine can improve your overall well-being and allow you to focus on things you may have been neglecting. While forming new habits is difficult, it is possible and well worth it. Family-Centered Services is focused on helping individuals and families find success and wellness in recovery. Our licensed clinicians will work with you to intimately understand your goals and create a plan to achieve them. We offer individual and family therapy, a Family Recovery Program, and comprehensive case management with sober accountability services. Call (509) 991-5822 to get started today.