How to kickstart a healthier life by setting tiny habits

How to kickstart a healthier life by setting tiny habits

Looking to improve your life and overall health? Clinical Psychologist Dr Judith Locke, explains how adopting a tiny habit can make a huge impact for your wellbeing in the long run. 

From smoking cigarettes, drug taking, alcohol consumption or gambling – often it is the actions that are detrimental to ours and others’ health and well-being that we first think of when we hear the word habit.

But like most things in life there are positives and negatives, Yins and yangs; and habits are no different. While habits can of course be negative or ‘bad’, they can also be positive too, significantly so.

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What is a positive habit?

In fact, adopting a positive habit, even a tiny habit can have a huge, beneficial effect on a person’s life in two ways says Clinical Psychologist, Dr Judith Locke.

“Healthy habits are positive, firstly because what you are doing is healthy, which is obviously good for you and you will benefit from that. But the second benefit is that choosing a healthy habit can lead you to make other positive actions and habits, leading you to really change your own narrative,” she told body+soul.

The beauty of a good habit is that it offers benefits for both the short term and long term, unlike a ‘bad’ habit which usually only caters for more immediate gratification. And while larger healthy habits, like completing a 5km run each can offer a plenitude of benefits, what is great about a tiny habit is that they are easily achievable.

A tiny habit is an action that takes as little as 30 seconds, making it doable for even the time poor or for those who have struggled to continue with other healthy routines, like the 5km runs. “Tiny habits are more likely to fit into daily routines, not as much effort is required to do them and it’s often these little things that add up to make a huge difference,” says Dr Locke.

The other benefit is that no one needs to know about it (unless you want them to of course). Which means that there is no external pressure which can make it much more difficult to fail. A tiny habit can take on a variety of forms in many different areas, depending on what you would like to focus on, or improve.

Some healthy tiny habits include

1. A healthy change to your diet

Like drinking a glass of water when you wake up or eating an extra piece of fruit each day.

2. Practicing a healthy change to your sleep routine

Write down worries before you go to sleep or do some deep breathing.

3. Relationships

Give a compliment to your partner, a friend or to a family member each day or simply ask how someone’s day was.

4. Work life balance

Do something just for yourself or turn off your phone after work has finished for the day.

5. Managing your time

Write to-do-lists or keep an organiser with all your commitments noted down.

6. Managing stress

Downloading a mindfulness app and undertaking one activity per day or listening to relaxing music.

This is how you can start healthy habits

To help develop a healthy habit there are some simple steps you can take…

1. Decide on a goal

What area it is you want to improve in? For example, improving your oral hygiene .

2. Choose a simple action you can take every day

This is the tiny habit that will help you with your goal. For example, flossing for 30 seconds each day or each time you brush your teeth.

3. Plan when and where you will take your action

Choose a time and place that you encounter every day of the week. This will ensure you are able to do that action and thus turn it into a habit.

4. Remember it gets easier with time

After a few weeks it should transition from a purposeful action into a habit you aren’t even thinking about. And if you forget or miss a day, don’t give up, keep persisting.

Some other helpful tips to help maintain your tiny habits are to:

  • Set reminders or leave visible reminders that you will see
  • If you are comfortable ask a friend or family member to hold you accountable and to motivate you
  • Utilise an app for healthy habits (yes there are apps for this)
  • Most importantly give yourself praise

As Dr Locke says, “It is important to be satisfied with your accomplishment, no matter how ‘tiny’ it may be. All the little things add up and can make a big difference.”

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