How to Stick with Good Habits; Even When Your Willpower is Gone
Good habits become hard to stick with when we feel drained at the end of a long workday. At the same time, a long week is often used as an excuse to go for the treats, junk food, and alcohol as a reward or for comfort. But good habits and behavior can be strengthened with some conscious efforts. Here are some ways you can help yourself strengthen your willpower so you can stick with good habits.
Change Your Environment
Research shows that good habits often don’t depend on how strong one’s willpower is but is more a matter of their environment. One physician concluded that the environment is a driver of better habits when setting up properly.
In fact, he did a six-month study that helped thousands of people in the hospital cafeteria develop healthier eating habits, all without talking to them or efforts by the cafeteria visitors. Here's’ what he did…
The physician, with the help of staff, simply changed the way the food and drinks were arranged in the vending machines and throughout the cafeteria. Healthier options like water were made more prominent than sodas, for example, which led to an over 11% drop in soda sales. They then were able to replicate the results with food choices and had the same results.
While this was done in a hospital cafeteria, the same philosophy can be incorporated into one’s home very easily. Simply rearrange your pantry, refrigerator or any place you keep food so that the healthier choices are the most visible, so they become the easy foods to reach for. This works for when your energy is drained, and you may not feel like searching for anything else.
Don’t Change All at Once
Most people begin a new habit such as incorporating a healthy diet or exercise program by going all in. And that is normal as excitement takes over and we can’t wait to get to the results we desire. Unfortunately, the enthusiasm wanes far before results are seen, so try taking small steps to reach your goal instead.
For example, cut all soda from your diet and replace it with water or diluted juice. Exchange a morning bagel or muffin for a piece of whole-grain toast with peanut butter and a little honey and vow to cut out alcohol completely for a month.
Make small changes like these every few days or every week or two, until you are comfortable with the change, then add another change. Here are some more exchanges you can incorporate:
· End your last meal of the day early if you want to lose weight; studies show that ending the last meal no later than 6 pm often leads to weight loss for most individuals
· Replace evening snacking with caffeine-free green tea or chamomile tea
· Enjoy a protein shake before bed to keep muscles fed without weight gain
· Vow to eat no restaurant or takeout food for a month
You can take small steps when it comes to physical activity, too. Simply begin slow and aim for three days of exercise each week for only 30 minutes. Take a relaxing walk after dinner or take your hiking shoes to work for a walk during your lunch break. Keep track of your activities, because seeing progress in writing can raise self-confidence and help you continue moving forward.
Plan and Prepare
Good habits are easily lost when we are fatigued and willpower wanes. But you can overcome this with preparation. Planning and preparing your meals ahead of time takes the thinking out of eating healthy. Most people mindlessly eat as they are too tired to prepare a healthy meal so head to the fast-food drive-through or reach for the chips. But having healthy meals ready makes it easy to stick to your good habits.
First, plan your daily meals for the next week, and keep them simple. The less prep work, the easier it is to follow through with your plan. In fact, some fitness gurus advise eating simple meals with fewer ingredients as a way to take the burden off digestion and increase metabolism. Here are some ways you can prepare ahead of time:
· Make a large salad, enough for a few days, and store in an airtight container in your refrigerator. When you need a salad, all you have to do is grab and go.
· Buy chicken breast, lean beef or fish in bulk. When you get home, divide it into four, six- or eight-ounce portions and store in freezer bags. When you are ready to make a meal, just grab and cook.
· Buy protein in bulk as above but cook it and store it. Then all you have to do is heat and serve with a handful of your salad you prepared ahead of time.
· Make a healthy casserole, stew or soup, large enough for four, then divide into portions and store; when you are ready to eat, grab and heat. These make easy lunch grabs for work, too! Some ideas for casseroles are chicken and quinoa, beef and broccoli or vegetable with sweet potatoes.
You can also plan your fitness routines. In fact, writing down the days and time you will exercise on a calendar that you can see every day takes the guesswork out of if you have time or not. Vow to yourself to stick with it and do anything you can to prepare. Here are some ways to plan for exercise:
· Have your workout clothes laid out so you when you get up for your early morning workout, they are ready; and try not to think about going, just go
· Have your workout water bottle ready to go where you can see it
· If you take a gym bag to the gym or work, have it ready and by the door so you can grab and go
· Have your lunch ready to grab and go, too
Using fitness apps like Yes.Fit where you can track and log your workouts and also earn some really cool rewards goes a long way in keeping you on track with your routine for good habits.
Overcoming willpower is more about your environment and developing good habits. You can learn how to overcome your busy lifestyle by planning and increase your chance of success with a little rearranging of your environment. Using strategies like the above can take the hard work out of willpower, so you can reach your goals and enjoy the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.