Editor’s note: Wellness Word is an informational column which is not meant to replace a health care professional’s diagnosis, treatment or medication.
Whether it’s eating right, exercising more, or spending less time at the office and more time with family, we all have goals. Do you ever wish you had a better plan of action for making and sticking with your health and wellness goals? Let’s talk about how to establish healthy habits and avoid the common stumbling blocks that keep us from succeeding.
First, let’s start out by establishing what we all know. Each person is unique and setting up new habits is an individualized process. I’m optimistic that it’s possible for everyone to make changes and it starts with setting-up environments and creating systems that support goals.
Think about creating a new habit like you would living a healthy lifestyle – it takes making healthy food choices and getting some physical activity every day. Creating a new habit is not a one-time event, it’s a process. It’s important to set-up a plan and create habits so you can sustain them. It will take work and upkeep to develop new habits.
According to the research, it can be very helpful to work with someone else when you are getting organized and creating new habits. Working with someone can help you stay focused, and is more energizing and more fun, which in turn will make you more successful.
If you are setting goals this new year, find someone or a group of people who are on the same journey for health and wellness. If you get together to plan and make meals or have an exercise buddy, you have built-in accountability.
One challenge that has sidetracked me in the past is trying to make too many changes too quickly. When we know “everything” that needs to be changed, that ends up being more than we can sustain long-term. We need to try and start small and change one thing at a time. It’s been said before but what gets measured gets done. If you aren’t measuring your goals and what you want to accomplish, it’s going to be hard to see if you are meeting them.
When you develop a new habit, consider using habit stacking. Habit stacking is when you add a habit you want to build into your routine to an already existing habit you enjoy. An example is watching your favorite TV show only while you are walking on the treadmill.
Many of us love things to be visible and tangible in our worlds. We can use reminders and visual cues to set-up successful systems. Use labels on the outside of drawers, shelves, cabinets, etc. Labels are a key tool to staying organized so you can remember where everything needs to live and then things don’t disappear into a pile, maybe to never come out again, or not come out when you need it.
Use a labeling system for meal planning. Label the prepared food in your freezer or fridge, including directions on how to prepare so you are ready to go when you are ready to eat. You can keep an inventory label of what’s in your freezer and check off items once you consume them so you know at a glance what’s stocked and when you need to make more.
Here’s how to create sustainable habits you can maintain long-term.
• Start small and easy When you start a new habit, make it so easy that you say yes to doing it. Stick to a small new habit for 30 days. Once you are sticking to the habit, you can add to it or do it more often.
• Make one change at a time If you try to change a lot of habits all at once, you are more likely to stall, because you’ve run out of self-control to keep up your changes. Habits are effective because, once established, they no longer take self-control.
• Figure out what’s holding you back If you aren’t successful at first, think about what isn’t working and preventing you from becoming consistent. Once you’ve identified the specific part of the process that’s holding you back, you can begin to develop a solution to solve it.
• Take a moment to think about one thing you want to implement Write it down and identify how are you going to measure your progress. Post this in a place that you’ll see it every day for the next two weeks.
Casey Hazlett is Portland’s Home Organizer and the founder of Sustainably Organized. Learn more at SustainablyOrganized.com