Cultivating habits of health

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How do you start forming lifelong habits? Where do you start? What is the best time to do it? Well, to answer the first question, it’s important to note that you must always have a goal in mind.

When an initially goal-directed behaviour becomes habitual, action initiation is converted from conscious motivational operations to context-cued impulse-driven mechanisms. We then no longer need the motivational cues, and the behaviour becomes automatic. It has been observed that a time period of 3 months is necessary to make a change in lifestyle happen, then after this the maintenance and termination phases are completed after 6-12 months, using the (Trans-Theoretical Model of Change) . This may seem like a long time, but when looking at the bigger picture of your life, it really isn’t much.

Making small changes, for example, waking up at 5 am everyday, you will definitely encounter many different challenges. Waking up early requires you to go to bed at an earlier time, ensuring that you have energy for the next day, and the next. Although this might seem like an ideal idea on paper, the challenges we face are sometimes out of our control. This is where people start feeling the lack of motivation to continue with the habit changing process. Pushing through at this stage and not allowing yourself and your brain to find an excuse to sleep in, is key.

Your starting point, as stated above, is with a goal. Do not be vague with the goal setting, but rather add more detail. This goal setting should be SMART:

SPECIFIC- ” I want to lose 2 kg’s of fat mass, and gain 1 kg of muscle mass, by the 15th of December 2020”

MEASURABLE- ” I will weigh myself 1 time per week, to check my progress.”

ACHIEVABLE- ” I have the right Diet and exercise plan to help me achieve this goal.”

REALISTIC- ” In order for me to lose weight, I need to be honest with myself about the food that I eat, and evaluate my current diet.”

TIME RELATED-” I am giving myself 1 month to reach my goal of losing 2 kg, and I will give myself Friday’s and Wednesdays to prepare the meals for the days ahead.”

This example is very simple, in order for you to take it and make it your own. By constantly evaluating your goals and making sure that you are still on track with your habit forming is a day by day, and minute by minute process. Many people rush through this and put too much pressure on themselves to reach their goals.

Habit formation and long-term, sustainable change is not easy, and you may fail many times before you get there. This will allow you to learn what your weaknesses and strengths are, in order for you to live a healthful and productive life.