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Forming Healthy Habits

Habits play a significant role in our ability to achieve our goals and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Developing healthy habits can be challenging, but it is essential to create a supportive environment that makes it easier to follow through with positive behaviours. 

Some healthy lifestyle habits can lead to less pain and inflammation, more energy, and a longer lifespan. These habits not only benefit our physical health but also our mental and emotional well-being. 

While developing habits may take some time and effort, the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle are well worth it in the long run. With consistency and persistency, it is possible to create healthy habits that support our overall health and well-being. 

It is important to identify cues that trigger unhealthy habits and find ways to modify those cues to create healthier habits. For instance, if you tend to snack on junk food in the afternoon when you feel tired, you can replace that habit with a healthier one by going for a walk or having a healthy snack like fruit or nuts instead.

How to build healthy habits

1. Stack your habits

According to experts, the most effective method of developing a new habit is to associate it with an existing one. To achieve this, examine your daily routines for recurring patterns and contemplate how you can leverage your current habits to establish fresh, beneficial ones. 

For numerous individuals, their morning ritual is the most established habit, making it an excellent opportunity to incorporate a new habit. For instance, your morning cup of coffee can create a great opportunity to start a new one-minute meditation practice. 

2. Start small

In his book “Tiny Habits”, B.J. Fogg, a researcher at Stanford University, highlights that substantial changes in behaviour necessitate a high level of motivation, which is often difficult to sustain. To combat this, he proposes initiating small habits that are easy to implement in the early stages. For instance, starting a daily routine of taking a short walk could be the beginning of an exercise habit. Similarly, placing an apple in your bag every day could lead to better eating habits. 

3. Do it every day

Experts in habit formation understand that removing obstacles that hinder us can increase the likelihood of forming new habits. One way to accomplish this is by packing your gym bag and placing it by the door, ready to go. 

4. Make it easy

Experts in habit formation understand that removing obstacles that hinder us can increase the likelihood of forming new habits. One way to accomplish this is by packing your gym bag and placing it by the door, ready to go. 

5. Reward yourself

In habit formation, rewards play a crucial role. Although some habits have immediate rewards, such as the refreshing feeling of a minty mouth after brushing teeth, others, like weight loss or physical changes from exercise, take longer to materialise. To make habit formation easier, it is helpful to include immediate rewards. For instance, listening to audiobooks while running or watching a favourite cooking show on the treadmill can provide instant gratification and reinforce an exercise habit. Similarly, scheduling an exercise session with a friend can make the reward spending time with them. 

6 Healthy Habits

1. Build a healthy and balanced diet

Vegetables and fruit are important sources of vitamins, minerals, fibre, and antioxidants. When planning your meals, aim to make at least half of your plate vegetables and fruit. It is also important to aim for colour and variety, as different coloured fruit and vegetables provide different nutrients and health benefits. 

Whole and intact grains have a milder effect on blood sugar and insulin levels compared to refined grains. Aim to make at least a quarter of your plate whole grains which can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases. 

Protein is an essential nutrient that is important for building and repairing tissue, as well as maintaining strong muscles and a healthy immune system. Fish, poultry, beans, and nuts are excellent sources of protein that are healthy and versatile and should fill a quarter of your plate. 

2. Do something physically active every day

The advantages of exercise are numerous and varied, including a stronger heart, increased bone density and muscle mass, improved balance, sharper mental acuity, elevated mood, and reduced stress levels. A brisk 30-minute walk, five times a week, is all that is needed to begin experiencing the positive effects of exercise. If this still seems overwhelming, start by engaging in some physical activity each day, such as garden work, housework, or walking the dog, and gradually increase your activity level. With time and persistence, exercise will soon become a natural and daily habit. 

3. Get at least seven hours of quality sleep per night

Getting enough sleep is just as important for the body as maintaining healthy habits such as eating well and exercising. During deep REM sleep, the body repairs cells and restores its functions to a baseline level. This is why getting sufficient sleep is associated with improved mood, concentration, memory, and other benefits. It is crucial not to compromise on sleep as it plays a significant role in achieving your goals. 

4. Find effective ways to manage stress

Stress can have damaging effects on both the mind and body. The body produces cortisol, also known as the ‘fight or flight’ hormone, when stressed, which can result in weight gain, reduced focus, and a weakened immune system if it continues for an extended period. Adopting healthy habits such as meditation, visualisation, and expressing gratitude can aid in stress management and prevent its harmful consequences. 

5. Reconnect with yourself on a regular basis

Ensure to allocate some time in your weekly schedule to unwind by going to the beach, relaxing on the couch with a good book, or catching a show or movie. Also, set aside a few minutes each day to meditate or simply do nothing at all. 

6. Develop deep and supportive relationships

Building connections with others is also crucial for leading a healthy life. Deep, loving, and supportive relationships can improve your overall health, increase life expectancy, and reduce the risk of depression. 

References

Basaraba, S 2022, How to Build a Healthy Habit, viewed 17 March 2023, <https://www.verywellmind.com/how-long-does-it-really-take-to-build-a-healthy-habit- 2224073#citation-1>. 

How do I Develop Healthier Habits? n.d., Tony Robbins, viewed 17 March 2023, < https://www.tonyrobbins.com/ask-tony/develop-healthier-habits/>. 

Parker-Pope, T 2021, How to Build Healthy Habits, viewed 4 April 2023, <https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/18/well/mind/how-to-build-healthy-habits.html> 

Miller, E 2020, 6 Healthy Habits You Should Practice Daily that Can Improve Your Health and Well-Being, viewed 4 April 2023, <https://skinnyms.com/6-healthy-habits-you-should-practice-daily/> 

Healthy Eating Plate 2023, Harvard, viewed 4 April 2023, <https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-eating-plate/> 

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