First things first.
What is a habit?
A habit is “a routine or practice performed regularly; an automatic response to a specific situation”.
In plain English, it’s something we do everyday, almost without thinking.
To maintain a healthy lifestyle through the years we need to make it a habit. So it stops being a struggle to become the way you live.
We are going to go through 3 concepts that will help you create healthy habits:
- Focus on what you can control
- Start small
- Act then change
First step: Focus only on what you can control
When it comes to our health this is something I hear daily:
“ I have no time to cook healthy”,
“ The weather is not helping”,
“ I can’t go to the gym (because of lack of time / location / price / lockdown)”
We are also constantly looking for perfection, waiting for the ideal day to start taking action.
“Next Monday I will start my workout routine”,
“After Christmas I will start dieting, there’s no point starting now”,
“It’s almost end of the year, next year I will focus on my health resolution”
DO THESE RESONATE? It definitely resonates to me 😐
The truth is that we are making up excuses, instead of focusing only on what is under OUR CONTROL and doing something about it.
How to get out of this loop of excuses when it comes to being healthier?
First, stop thinking about the “healthy diet” as a restrictive and temporary diet that has a start and finish date. A healthy diet should be your lifestyle, not restrictive but balanced. So you can start working on it today, the first day of November.
Second, focus on what you can control. You can’t control the weather or the restrictions of lockdown, but you can look for options to exercise at home.
If you don’t know what to cook you can ask for help, such as my 5 free recipe pack.
If you feel you don’t have time to cook, you only need to dedicate 2 hrs. of your time to cook for the whole week. So maybe it’s only a matter of better time management and organization.
Again, focus on your sphere of control and what can you change to create your healthy habit and reach your goal.
Your Sphere of Control
Sometimes you may feel you can influence the way things go, that is, you feel in control. But other times you may feel that you have no control on how things go, that is, you feel out of control.
The degree to which people feel in control over how things go in their lives is often studied as a feeling of “locus of control” (Rotter, 1966), an important concept in psychological research.
The spheres of control is a more sophisticated way of studying locus of control, because people may feel in control in one domain but not in another.
The spheres of control scale distinguishes three spheres:
Sphere 1: Circle of Control: things are 100% under our control: our actions, what we do/ what we don’t do / how we react.
Sphere 2: Circle of Influence: the concerns we can do something about, directly or indirectly. For example how my kid behaves, work environment, etc.
Sphere 3: Circle of concern: Things we have no control or influence, for example, the weather or political decisions (if we are not a politician, of course).
We need to focus all our energy on the things we can control and influence. And the things out of our control, we need to accept and let them go!
Acceptance does not mean that you like it or approve, it means that you recognize the reality of a situation and do not resist it or deny it.
Acceptance is not easy. While we are able to list what we could control and influence, we struggled emotionally to accept what is outside of our control/influence. Once you let go of those things you can’t control, you will feel lighter and more in control of your life.
Today we are going through a particular situation: global pandemic.
Unfortunately the pandemic has put us in a difficult situation: Struggling financially, emotionally and feeling we can do nothing until this disappears or at least is managed.
This wasn’t in our plan, right? We were planning our next holidays, visiting family, financial goals, year resolutions and PUM! hi COVID-19, you ruined my plans 😣
So, let’s go back to: what can we influence and control?
We certainly can’t control the virus, instead we can:
- Protect ourselves: strengthen our health with healthy food and exercise.
- Influence people to do healthy and safe practices to avoid an infection.
- Practice mindfulness to control our anxiety or stress
- Have a better financial organization and plan ahead to avoid financial stress
I accept the reality (I don’t like it, but accept it and don’t deny it) and try to work on myself to be happier and healthier (body and mind).
Second: Start Small
Once we clearly identify what we can do, we start, but start small and patient.
Habits take time to master. According to science, to develop a new habit takes around 200 days and not 21 days as you can see in some magazines. Of course, every person learns at a different pace, be gentle to yourself.
By saying this I want to show that to incorporate a new habit it takes effort, consistency and (again) daily PRACTICE.
Think about stuff such as brushing our teeth, having a shower every day, having a coffee every morning, checking social media etc. Easy, right? because we do this automatically: it’s a habit.
If your goal is to be healthier, you need to build healthy habits.
Does this need to be something complex? Hell no! even a 5 min action will make a HUGE difference.
For example: instead of laying straight into the couch after a stressful day go for a 5-min walk (can be 10’ as well 😊)
If you want sleep better, start with one small change to your routine.
If your goal is to eat healthier, start with one meal a day. Don’t change your entire menu from one day to another, this will make it really hard for you to maintain. Start small and be consistent. That’s the key.
Third: Action first, then change
This is something I talk to my clients a lot.
This small action we talked about does not have to be perfect. A simple swap of a portion, a small reduction of a portion.
Your goal might be to eat the necessary amount of protein per day. But you can start by adding more protein to one meal. It will not be enough but it’s better than yesterday. And from there you keep building up.
Practice makes perfect, right?
My recent experience
I wanted to exercise but the gyms are closed (lockdown). Luckily, I got a bench, some rusty plates and a barbell that someone was giving away for free. With that I started doing my gym program at home.
But I started, and that motivated me to get some more weights and barbells. Not much because I have a tiny space, but enough for now.
Slowly but consistently, now it’s been more than 2 months and exercising at home has become a habit which (unbelievably) I’m craving for and I can see the changes in my body and mood.
I feel stronger when playing with my son, I feel energized and confident. And most important: I set a goal and I’m working towards it; that makes me happy. And it all started with 30 kg of rusty plates.
“An imperfect action beats a perfect inaction every single time”
and this is applicable to any aspect in your life.
Start taking action today!
- Going for a walk after you arrive to home
- Swaps: a portion of rice for a healthy salad instead
- Try having an open mind instead of fixed mindset
- Practice regular exercise
- Connect with people (even if it’s only virtually, stay connected, talk to friends)
- Manage stress, practise any form of meditation or mindfulness
- Be grateful of what you have
- Congratulate yourself for the things you have achieved
- Let go of those things you can’t control