Written By Kristin Wood
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If you had a dime for everytime you said you were going to do better and improve your wellness…but then don’t because you had no idea where to start, I know - you’d be wealthy.
You can find unlimited ideas for new habits online, but how do you know they’re the right ones for your situation? Two mistakes that I see with picking positive habits are, not being honest with yourself about the problem you’re trying to solve, and looking for the easy win instead of the win that would strengthen self-control.
Before you freak out let me share a valuable tip in habit formation, keep it simple. If you want to do something but you struggle to add it into your life (or taking it away), ask yourself how you can simplify it.
A personal example of this is my decision that I wanted to increase my heart rate in each workout. I love walking but I wanted to break a sweat and I've sworn off running, so that wasn’t the answer. It dawned on me that we own an exercise bike and for some reason, I hadn’t used it in years. So, what if I rode the bike after a walk?
Day one on the bike was to get a feel of what I could do and what would happen, I lasted 10 minutes. The next day my mind tried to tell me that I needed to ride longer if I was going to be adding value to my workout, so I set a goal of 15 minutes. I didn’t make it. On day three I thought about saying the bike wasn’t a habit for me, but rational won out and I realized 10 minutes at a higher heart rate was 10 minutes more than I had been doing. Ten minutes would be enough to start my habit. In time if I want to ride for 15 or even 20 minutes, it would all be BONUS.
What changes could happen in your health if you gave yourself the option of starting with a small habit and allowing for bonus effort on the days you have more in you? Imagine the changes in your physical and mental wellness activity.
Good habits are what shield you from being physically exhausted or mentally drained. Raise your hand if you’ve had days (or weeks) where your emotions are all over the place and you’re feeling depressed with no reason. If your hand is up, you’re in the right place.
I’m going to share four good habit areas, the key foundation areas that move you towards a balanced well-being. I’ll also break down personality distinctions that will go a long way in helping you create habits that suit you.
Habits build on each other and when you implement solid foundational habits you open the door for dramatic transformation. So let's get into these now.
Habits gradually change the face of one’s life as time changes one's physical face, and one does not know it. - Virginia Woolf
First, let’s evaluate your habits around sleep. Sleep is a cornerstone foundational area that stacks benefits for the other three pillars. Despite its importance, many face resistance to change, especially when it comes to hitting the hay earlier. You may know that you’re tired, to the point you’re chronically exhausted, but the idea of going to bed earlier is something you’re against.
The reality is sleep is non-negotiable. I suggest clients start by tracking their current sleep habits for a week. Understanding your starting baseline is the first step in crafting a tailored plan for improvement. Sleep boils down to an earlier bedtime or later wake-up, but the challenge lies in managing the activities that currently fill that time.
In the tracking, you’ll want to focus on what’s happening the hour before bed and the hour after waking. It might be easier to make habit changes around these actions. Changes that stop them or move them to another time, therefore freeing up your schedule and allowing you to find opportunities to hit your target for optimal rest.
Allow yourself to start with 10 minutes extra a night, gradually building on that foundation. With time you’ll find opportunities for bonus sleep and can adjust your target of optimal rest.
Next is the foundational area of movement. Exercise isn’t just about breaking a sweat. It’s the key to better sleep, relieving anxiety, and an energy and mood boost. I get that it might seem counterintuitive to carve time from your hectic schedule to move when filled with overwhelmed and depressed emotions but trust me, it works to bring balance back to your body.
To create a plan for increased movement you’ll want to understand what kind of movement your current day includes. Even small changes can make a big impact. If you’re mostly sedentary, start with small steps and gradually reduce that sedentary lifestyle.
Increasing movement doesn’t have to look like an agonizing trip to the gym. It may be a new personal rule that you don’t take the elevator (if you are around elevators daily), or always park further away from the door, and it may be a block of time to work out each day. Finding the exercise regimen that suits you is crucial. A Balanced Body Guide can be your ally in breaking through mental roadblocks and tailoring a regimen that suits you.
Now let’s explore the third foundational area: your diet. Exercise boasts many benefits but shedding pounds is not one of them. If your goal is to drop weight, exercise is good but your diet is what releases the pounds. You might have guessed it but I’ll say it again, it’s crucial to have an understanding of your current dietary habits.
It’s not just the food you put in your mouth, but what you are drinking, liquid calories count. Following your hunger and fullness scale is something I emphasize with clients. We always eat when we’re hungry, so recognizing when you’re eating out of habit vs. hunger is a key step in creating new habits.
These new habits might involve the times that you eat, a timeout to check your emotional well-being or even certain eating situations you want to avoid. Tracking your current eating habits will unveil clues about your emotional eating.
Your diet is a foundational area where all or nothing, drastic changes are the common message. This may work for some, but if it hasn’t been successful for you, permit yourself to make a smaller simpler change. Simpler habits might look like a rule of no seconds, or you must use a plate and sit at the table to eat (no more grazing).
The last foundational area I want to share is clearing out life’s clutter. Establishing calm in our external environment has a significant impact on our inner peace. Picture this: if your counters are covered in open bags and boxes of food it will be hard to resist unnecessary snacking. Perhaps for you, it’s an office that is cluttered and hard to accomplish work in. Therefore you spend more time at the office than you’d like, taking away time for movement or time to unwind and have an earlier bedtime.
Take a look at your surroundings and identify the places that are causing you stress. Whether it’s a sink of dirty dishes, a pile of magazines, or that elusive item you can never find when needed. The reward comes in recognizing your triggers and creating habits to prevent them.
Hands down the best way to create a habit that’ll stick and bring you genuine enjoyment as well as lasting change is to shape the habit to suit you. In her insightful book, 'Better Than Before,' Gretchen Rubin provides a beautiful breakdown of essential considerations for shaping habits, and I'm excited to share them with you.
The first consideration is pinpointing the optimal time for your new habit. It’s important to know if you’re a morning or evening person. Creating a habit of going to the gym every day at 6:00 am is going to be challenging to follow through with if you’re not a morning person. This habit will feel punishing and the real reason for that has nothing to do with exercise. The issue is you’re working against yourself. On the flip side, if you’re a morning person you'll find active evening habits won't align with your natural rhythm.
Next is recognizing your preferred work pace. Are you a marathoner who enjoys a slow steady pace without deadlines, or a sprinter who prefers to work in a quick burst of focused effort, often thriving on a deadline? There's a third style: a procrastinator. This one may appear at first to be a sprinter but you know you’re busying yourself as a way of avoiding the thing that needs to be done. Since a habit may feel like a deadline you’ll want to tailor habits to your working style.
Do you love to shop or hate to shop? Wonder why this matters when it comes to habits. Well, the person who is an under buyer, disliking to shop, may avoid purchasing equipment or services that would help support good habits. However, this doesn’t mean that those who love to shop, the overbuyers have an easier time with habits. Too much equipment begins to be cumbersome and just clutter if not used effectively. The takeaway is realizing that spending on items that support good habits is worthwhile, and having more support is only valuable if coupled with action.
A coach becomes an indispensable ally in the habit creation journey, particularly when navigating the intricacies of individual personality differences. To kickstart this transformative process, the first step can be downloading my free "Body Bliss Blueprint" guide.
This is a valuable resource to begin understanding the role of mindset in your health journey. When you’re ready for personalized guidance, we can work together to tailor habits that align with your distinctions. As a Balanced Body Guide, I provide clients with essential accountability, ensuring consistency and progress.
👉🏻 Click here to get your copy.
Life is often viewed as either a cup half full or half empty, but let's now look at it from the perspective of do you prefer simplicity or abundance. Simplicity enthusiasts enjoy clean spaces, roomy closets, and fewer choices. Where abundance lovers revel in more, collections, and options galore. If simplicity is your style, habits that involve removing an action are going to be more attractive than those that are adding to your day.
Here’s an interesting one, are you a finisher or an opener? I was watching a Seinfeld rerun and noticed a row of cereal boxes in the kitchen. I know it’s a TV show but that made me anxious! I’m a finisher, I prefer to never have more than two boxes of cereal open at any time. An opener would be fine having a dozen boxes open, even if some are the same kind.
Apply this insight in habit formation. Finishers seek closure in habits where in contrast openers embrace variety and can happily juggle numerous habits. Applying this insight a finisher might be happy with the same structured workout week after week, whereas an opener may be more comfortable with variety and flexibility.
Reflecting on past habits, you’ll likely notice a pattern of what’s worked or failed around the idea of loving familiarity or loving novelty. If following through with a habit day after day makes it feel easier, you love familiarity. On the other hand, if the same habit day after day begins to feel like a chore you loathe you’re more of a novelty lover. Getting a thrill from new and different doesn’t mean habits won't work for you. It just means you’d thrive from shaking things up occasionally or even leaning more into short challenges with a 21-day or 30-day format to keep actions engaging and effective.
Hang with me, just two more areas to get to know yourself in.
The success or failure of a habit may come down to how you perceive the goal of the habit. Some people will be promotion-focused in life. Concentrating on achievement, gains, praise, and optimistically pursuing their goals. While prevention-focused people concentrate more on their duties, minimizing pain, always looking for the path with the least drawbacks. When it comes to forming habits, consider what resonates more: “Get more sleep” or “Stop staying up too late”. Frame your habit in a way that suits your focus.
Lastly, do you prefer taking big strides or do you find comfort in small steps in terms of transformation? It’s true that embracing a habit, even in the smallest form, will protect and strengthen the habit. It’s also true that some people are very ambitious and find a major change easier than a minor change. For these people, gradually making changes can create stress, a lack of interest, or they feel like the change is insignificant. Recognizing your inclination for transformation allows you to navigate the journey or habit formation with clarity and efficiency.
Change only happens with consistency. Change for the better happens with consistent action that is positive for your health. After seeing these distinctions and how they each play a role in your ability to commit with consistency to a habit, I hope that you’ve been able to see why past attempts have worked or not worked and that you now have the tools to adjust and try again.
Some will take this information and have wild success. Others may see the curtains parting but still be unsure of how to make this work for their benefit. For those, I’m here for you. If you’re open and ready to change how your life is going I’d love to know more about your current situation, what has been a struggle, and what goal you’d like to work towards. I’m sure with your dedication and the support and accountability from a Balanced Body Guide like myself you’ll make great strides!