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How to Create Healthy Habits

Apr 30, 2020

Hi!  It's Karen from Karen Vincent Solutions.

“A settled tendency or usual manner of behavior” is a definition of habit according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.  When we think of the word “habit” we often think of only “bad habits”. These could include smoking, biting your fingernails, always being late, hitting the snooze button, drinking, checking social media without even thinking about it, eating unhealthy foods…the list could go on forever.

What we don’t talk about or highlight as much are the “good habits” we have.  These could include brushing our teeth every day, making sure all the dishes are done before going to bed, putting gas in the car before the empty light comes on, going to the grocery store and buying healthy food each week, calling a parent or good friend each week to check in…this list could also go on forever. 

What is important to keep in mind, is that habits can be both acquired and removed from our lives when we are mindful and intentional about them.  I am a firm believer of “crowding out”.  This is where a new behavior is introduced which over time, forces an old behavior out.  I’ve ready many books, listened to many podcasts and listened to speakers share their wisdom about how to form and eliminate habits.  It took me a little while to figure it all out but now that I have, it really works!  I’ll share some examples from my personal experience and then I will provide you with specific steps for how you can do this too. 

As I share my personal life examples, notice how the positive habits can build upon one another.  For many years,  I had a habit of staying up late watching television.  I thought I was doing this as a form of self-care, to unwind after a busy or stressful day and to just kind of zone out (believe me, what I was watching was nothing educational or inspirational). 

Since I was going to bed around 11:00 pm each night, I would then sleep until 6:30 am or 7:00 am and on the days I didn’t, I was exhausted.  That was my routine…for years.  Then I decided that I wanted to get up at 6:00 am every morning so I did not feel so rushed and so I had a little more time for myself before going to work. 

I set my alarm for 6:00 am and did not hit the snooze button.  I immediately got out of bed (very tired) and started my day.  The next morning, I did the same and I enjoyed the extra time I had in the morning.  What happened that second night was that I was really tired since I had been up earlier…so I went to bed a little earlier which made it easier to get up at 6:00 am the following morning. 

It was working!  I kept inching up my wake-up time and as a result, going to bed earlier until I was at a 5:00 am wake up and a 9:00 pm / 9:30 pm bedtime. This has now been my routine for a long time, and I don’t think about it or question it.  I enjoy the morning and get so much accomplished during this time. I  don’t miss my late nights zoning out in front of the television, which was not adding any value to my life.

I gained a full two hours of time for myself in the morning that I was using for reading, journaling and working on some side projects.  Next, I tackled the thing I had been needing to do for a very long time.  I needed to get into a regular exercise routine which I had not had for probably ten or more years. 

I did not enjoy exercise at all so this was not something that was easy for me.  How I started, was by telling myself I would just walk on the treadmill for five minutes.  Yup…just five minutes.  I learned through research, and from experience, that going from zero to one hundred does not work for me.  So, I got on the treadmill for my five-minute walk…and I did ten minutes. I’m a big overachiever! Not really in this instance, but once I was on the darn thing with my sneakers laced up, it seemed silly to just do five minutes. 

 

With that said, I was still not enjoying it, so I decided ten minutes was enough.  I did that again the next day and my time kept increasing. Although I still was not looking forward to exercising, I was starting to love the way I felt when I was done, which was further reinforcing the behavior.  Over time, I added in cycling, boxing and weightlifting and at this point, it is rare for me to miss a day of exercise because it is completely ingrained in my daily routine.  I am almost on autopilot, so I don’t allow myself the opportunity to talk myself out of it.

The next positive habit change that came after adopting these other behaviors was that when I started exercising, I did not have as much time to do my reading, journaling and side projects in the morning, so I moved my reading to the evenings which “crowded out” most of the remaining mind numbing television I was watching. 

I’m not suggesting that I never watch television, however, it is rare.  What has happened is that I am thoughtful about what I am viewing and when I do turn on the television, it is usually with my husband and we are watching something we have both been looking forward to watching together.

As you can see, I started the habit of getting up earlier that then resulted in my going to bed earlier.  Then I started with five to ten minutes per day on the treadmill and that turned into running and cycling and lifting weights and boxing.  Finally, that turned into moving my reading to the evenings which has almost eliminated all television for me. 

This is just my new normal…and it is easy.  I don’t really think about it, it just happens.  I feel much healthier and am much happier with the lifestyle I am now living.  The great news is that this can work for anything and anyone. 

The key here is to go slowly and do what works for your lifestyle. If you don’t work traditional hours or if you have small children at home, waking up at 5:00 am is likely not a good answer for you.  The point is to commit to how you will fit in the thing you are trying to create, and ease into it.  I did not go from waking up at 7:00 am to waking up at 5:00 am in one day or one week. 

I did not go from zero exercise to daily exercise where I am pushing myself out of my comfort zone in a week or two.  You must build the mental muscle so that the thing you are trying to do becomes part of your daily routine and who you are.  Below are some steps you can follow if you are looking to build healthy habits.

3 easy steps to building healthy habits.

  1. Decide what you want to do and be clear and specific.  Do you want to cut down social media use to thirty minutes per day?  Do you want to meal prep your food at the beginning of the week? Do you want to make sure you and your partner have a night to yourselves without distractions each week?  Do you want to exercise more? Do you want to start writing the book you have been dreaming about?  Do you want to learn to speak a different language?  Do you want to unclutter your home and become an organized person?  The list could go on and on.

a. Ask yourself what the habit is that you want to build into our life.

b. Now be sure you are clear about why you want to build the habit into your life (I want to learn to speak French so that I can communicate well on my trip to Paris next year = I need to consistently practice my French).

 

  1. Start small.  As I shared, I had a goal to get on the treadmill for five minutes.  That was completely doable for me and that is what I needed to start to program my mental muscle to know that exercising every morning was just part of my day.  My experience has been that starting too big is overwhelming and that people quit…hello New Year’s resolutions!

a. Ask yourself, how can I start small? Aim low, feel the success and then build. 

b. Ask yourself,  be clear about why you want to do this and be realistic about what you can do (I am going to practice French for fifteen minutes per day, three days per week for a month and then reassess how far along I am).

c. If you do more than what you are planning to do, that is a bonus!

 

  1. Relapse is normal. You are going against the grain when you create a new habit.  If what you are wanting to do was easy, you would be doing it already. It is important that you have some grace with yourself and appreciate the process you are going through, to do something that is going to positively impact your life.  If you take a step back…don’t look back.  Instead, keep looking forward…regroup and keep at it. 

One thing that has been helpful for me is that I try to live by the rule of “never backslide two days in a row”.  What this means is that, although I intend to work out every single day, if I miss a day, I will never miss the following day.  This keeps the habit of exercise every day strong.  Since I went so long without exercising, I am concerned that missing many days, or even a full week could put me back to my default mode, which was ten years of barely exercising. I don’t want to keep stopping and starting over and this helps make sure that never happens again. I never let the scale tip back to the old habit.

You can do this, and you are worth it.  The key is to start small.  You won’t see immediate progress, but the new behaviors will “stick” and that is far more powerful.   I am cheering you on!

If you are wanting to create positive habits that help you keep moving in the direction of your goals, sign up for my FREE 5 Day Positive Habit Challenge HERE. You can start right away!

Live your best Boss Lady life!

~ Karen

Karen Vincent Solutions

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