Building Healthy Habits: How to Attain a Healthy & Successful Life
Healthy habit building may be one of the most under-emphasized and overlooked techniques in building sustainable health. Many coaches consider building healthy habits as the quickest and easiest way to create a sustainable change in your life, so at Gloveworx, we encourage healthy habit building.
Read on to learn more about how to develop healthy lifestyle habits for a successful life, in and out of the ring.
Movie Motivation and the Lifestyle Myth
Many times, we tend to zoom out and focus only on the big, defining moments without realizing how much work comes before them. We see the glorious championship fight in the movies that the boxer has been training his whole life for, and yet only a fraction of the film is actually spent showing the boxer train. The epic training montage lasts up to five minutes in the movie, summarizing months upon months of actual training.
These movies are meant to motivate and inspire us, and they’re often very successful. Unfortunately, movie motivation only lasts long enough to get you started with your physical activity goals. To continue on to reach your goal is nothing more than a rudimentary sense of discipline and an effective, simple plan to create change through action.
Success in any field does not come from doing one great thing or making one big move after move—it is about taking very small steps that compound over time.
Building Healthy Habits
It takes a minimum of 21 consecutive days to build a habit. These are just 21 days out of a whole year where change may be difficult and where you might be forced to leave your comfort zone in favor of working harder. Those 21 days are less than 6% out of a single year that helps you to build sustainable healthy lifestyle habits. Those 21 days can benefit the rest of your life.
You don’t need an unreasonable amount of discipline to be healthy—eating one donut will not make you unhealthy, just like how eating one salad will not make you healthy either. Creating successful habits often require inaction; a simple “no” at a bakery is the first step to avoid walking in at all.
Be realistic when building your healthy habits, as “more” is often nothing but an oversimplified metric. Set a specific numeric goal and give yourself a deadline to achieve it. Once all the pieces are set in place, it’s easy to let go and follow the trend you have created for yourself.
Understanding How Habits Work
Humans are often called creatures of habit. This is because we rely on having a routine in life to accomplish what needs to be done. Even the slightest disruption to that routine can make a lasting impact on your day. Think about it: if you have school-aged children, mornings are likely a bit hectic. However, you likely have a flow of events-- or a routine-- that keeps things fairly manageable.
For example, maybe you set the children up with some healthy foods for breakfast and get dressed and ready for the day while they eat. When your children are done, perhaps they get dressed for the day while you pack their meal for school. If the children are off and ready on time, you might be able to sneak in some form of exercise in the morning before heading to work.
Now let's look at it from another angle. Your toddler's teeth are bothering him or her and so no one gets a good night's sleep. Instead of the fresh fruit you usually serve at breakfast, you've slept in and your children have to settle for toast. Since everyone got a poor night's sleep, the children aren't cooperative, things fall apart, you miss your morning workout, and the day feels like garbage.
See? Disruption is hard. Changing habits is hard. However, when it comes to a bad habit, the change is well worth it.
Trigger, Cue, Reward
Both good and bad habits are subject to habit loops. These loops consist of a trigger, a cue, and a reward. For example, if you've gotten into a habit of eating snacks while watching TV in the evening, you may struggle with the habit of snacking in the evenings. Don't feel too bad-- it's one of the eating habits that many contenders struggle with.
The act of sitting down in front of the TV triggers your brain to say, "snack time!" The reward is whatever snack you choose to satisfy your craving.
There are many ways to break the habit, but the most effective way is to replace the bad habit with a good one. By either removing the trigger (i.e., choosing another evening activity) or replacing the reward (choosing healthy foods to respond to the cue), you can start to build a healthy lifestyle by disrupting your bad habits.
One Habit at a Time
When you feel motivated to start living a healthy lifestyle, it can be hard to stop yourself from jumping in with both feet. Yes, you should start engaging in more physical activity. No one is going to deny the positive impacts of starting today. However, to get the benefits of regular exercise, such as the reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, weight loss, and a longer life expectancy, it needs to be regular and consistent.
In other words, having a healthy diet and engaging in physical activity isn't going to do much if you go hard for a week then fall off. Why does this happen so much? Because you haven't created a sustainable healthy lifestyle habit.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to focus on one healthy habit at a time to pave the way for a realistic work-life balance and long term health and well-being.
Start with something simple, like drinking enough water. Adequate hydration is important for fueling physical activity and curbing your appetite so that you're only eating when you need to. Commit to completing this habit every day for one week, then add something else.
Take the same approach to diet and exercise: rather than jumping in with both feet, break it down into smaller goals. For the first week, commit to exercising 30 minutes, three times rather than aiming to hit the studio every day. Rather than completely overhauling your eating habits, aim to fill half of your plate with vegetables at dinner and incorporate fresh fruit at breakfast.
Creating sustainable healthy lifestyle choices takes a lot of time, and can seem challenging when you're used to instant gratification. When these negative thoughts arise, consider what you've done before. Now ask yourself: how did that work for you?
A Holistic Approach
It's important to remember that our eating habits often link to more than just food on a plate. To reach our goals, we need to take a holistic approach to our health and well-being. Various factors, like social surroundings, cultural norms, sleep hygiene, and career expectations all impact how someone will treat their body.
For these reasons, many coaches choose to take a holistic approach to fitness goals, taking a 360-degree view of what's going on in a contender's life. This approach, in combination with habit building practices, will effectively change one's mindset and allow them to make healthy choices.
You must believe that change is possible, and you must be strong enough to get the ball rolling. Focus on creating an effective and specific plan to guarantee a change in your life. Engage both your logical mind and your emotional and creative space to make everything work together. Stay driven and motivated, all the while moving closer towards achieving your specific goals.
When in doubt, remind yourself that you are a contender and you have what it takes to Become Unstoppable.