Compassionately Creating Healthy Habits
We all were forced to create new habits at the very beginning of the pandemic. It was an urgent time in the world, causing most of us to establish new routines and schedules, both at work and at home. Now, after about a year and a half of managing through the COVID pandemic, we are in the process of living life differently again.
For many of us, it has been difficult to take care of our bodies and minds in the same way as before the pandemic began. Sleep schedules and childcare changed, stress was up, gym routines ended, and even grocery shopping got strange. As we decide now how to socialize, where to exercise, and how to build healthy lifestyle habits, let’s be kind to ourselves.
Give It Time and Patience
We must be patient and recognize that forming a habit takes planning and practice. The first step is to figure out what you really want to change right now—not what someone else thinks you should change, but what you want to change. This should spark your interest and maybe get you a little excited. For example, Charlie has been thinking recently about how she should start exercising again and daydreaming about getting to bed a little earlier because she’s always dragging by the afternoon. After thinking about how both of those additions to her life would feel right now, she decides she’s too tired to get up earlier to go to the gym like she used to, but she feels like she’s on the right track by trying to get more rest.
Find Your Motivation
Think about why you want to make this change. Why does it matter to you right now? How do you envision this change enhancing your life and health a year after you’ve incorporated it into your life? Once you have figured out the “why”, remind yourself of it often because that’s your motivation. In our example, Charlie thought about how she would feel after months of getting some more sleep on a regular basis—she envisions feeling more rested, having more energy, and feeling like she can do more in her day, all of which she really wants.
Start Small and Build
Now that the what (specific habit change) and why (motivation) is identified, lay out a path to your new habit. Set one or two small, specific goals to start you on your path. Once you’ve reached those goals consistently for several weeks, add one or two more small goals, while continuing the original changes. Don’t forget to reward yourself for the small changes! Charlie decides to start going to bed 15 minutes earlier every night than she usually does. She sets a phone alarm to remind her 30 minutes before her new bedtime so that she can get ready for bed. After a few weeks, she finds that she has established healthy sleep habits. She’s easily getting to sleep 15 minutes earlier and wants to start pushing her bedtime back another 15 minutes so that she’s getting about 7-½ hours of sleep most nights.
Make It Stick
Finally, assess your desired habit and goals regularly to make sure you’re working toward the habit change that you want. We don’t always reach goals and that’s ok; be kind to yourself—it’s just time to tweak your goals to better reflect what you can and will do to eventually ensure your new habit sticks.
At High, our co-workers can access the benefits of our High Health Management Program which includes individual coaching sessions to help get you back on track.