It’s no secret that healthy habits can reduce your risk for a lot of diseases, but that makes it sound easier than it is. The truth is, adopting healthy habits can be hard – especially if you don’t approach them from the right angle. That’s why the American Heart Association has published a list of tips to help the challenge more manageable.
First, understand that you have to do something for 60 to 90 days before it becomes a habit. This is a critical period – whatever change you want to make, you have to make time for it no matter how busy your schedule may be. You should also understand that negative habits are easier to form because they offer immediate gratification, but you pay for it later in life. Positive habits, however, do not offer instant gratification but give you a bigger payout in the future.
And don’t think of your task as ending a habit so much as replacing it. In the 1970s detective drama “Kojak,” for example, the title character sucks on lollipops because he is trying to quit smoking. This is an example of someone using a new habit to replace a worse one. Of course, replacing smoking with lollipops is not as healthy as replacing it with running, but either option is healthier than cigarettes.
You should also remind yourself of why it is you’re making the change to begin with. Maybe you want to see your kids graduate, or walk your child down the aisle… or maybe you just want to look better so you can impress someone special. When it comes to why you should live a healthier life, there’s no wrong reason.
When trying to develop a new habit, it’s also helpful to break it into smaller, short-term goals. If your goal is to cut back on your alcohol intake, for example, start by reducing how much you drink by a little bit each day. Once you start to see how much difference a little change can make, you’ll be motivated to try larger changes.
Share your goal with someone you trust, and who will hold you accountable. It’s tough to change a habit when you don’t have the right support.
Allow yourself a cheat day once in a while. If you’ve avoided sweets all week and have been exercising, it’s okay to let yourself splurge a little. That’s a reward for your hard work.
You should also try to free yourself from the television, or at least exercise while you watch. Imagine how healthy you would be if all the hours you spend in front of a TV were simultaneously spent on a stationary bike.