I don’t know about you, but when I wake up early (and 5:30am comes painfully early) I’m on autopilot. It goes something like this…alarm goes off, jump out of bed, put on coffee maker, eat banana and walnuts, drink coffee, brush teeth, apply makeup, get dressed, etc, etc. I might as well be a robot! Do you ever feel like you’re rushing around on autopilot? You’re probably carrying out habits . Habits don’t require decision making skills because they are well developed neural pathways in the brain. We can do them on autopilot! The good news is, for those with bad habits, is that the neural pathways deteriorate when they are not used. According to a study done by Duke University, 45% of our behaviors are habitual. 45%!!!!! Habits shape our lives in a big way so we need to pay attention to them.
Did you know that there is actually an area of our brains that programs our repetitive behaviour so that we barely have to think about them at all? Imagine making new decisions about every item in the grocery store? That would be exhausting! The area of our brain that programs repetitive thoughts is called the basal ganglia. The more repetitive a habit, the stronger its presence in the basal ganglia.
The cool thing? You can create any habit you want. Get ready for the first few weeks to be super painful as your neural pathways get stronger. Before you know it, your habits will be doing the work for you!!!! But it’s going to take one very important ingredient. Willpower! When it comes to creating new and better habits, the more willpower you can muster up, the more successful at it you will be.
Willpower is like a muscle. If you haven’t used it in a while, it might be really weak. If you decide to do 90 minutes of Pilates at 5am everyday, your willpower is going to run for the hills. On the other hand if you decide to roll out of bed and do a set of hundreds before you start your day, that’s sustainable you just might be doing it for years to come. Starting small is key. Creating small sustainable habits will not only be lasting, but you will get great pleasure from all of your ‘small’ successes. Small successes also add up to big success.
Reading, writing, and thinking about good habits will get you nowhere. It’s time for an action plan! Here are some simple ideas for your new health and wellness habits.
- Drink 8 oz of water a day.
- Do a set of hundreds upon waking
- Eat a big salad every single day
- Eat 2 servings of fresh fruit a day
- Power walk for 20 minutes a day
- Meditate for 10 minutes a day
- Spend 20 minutes a day outside
Now create your own! Think about what you really want to achieve. If it’s weight loss, really focus in on the water, fruit, veggies, and movement. If stress reduction is your goal, veer towards meditation, walks in nature, healthy eating, and soothing teas. If you’re into apps, there are some wonderful ‘habit apps’. Try HabitBull, Habit Streaks, or Productive Habit Tracker. Remember we’re starting small here so go for 100% completion! Use that willpower muscle!
Want to learn more about the power of habits? Pick up Mini Habits: Smaller Habits Bigger Results by Stephen Guise.
Have a wonderful day!!!!!!