Starting “getting healthy” is easy. The rush at the beginning of a detox or cleanse: exciting! The signing of the gym or yoga membership: exciting! Buying the new workout gear or kit: exciting! When we start out on a Get Healthy endeavour the beginning is the easy bit. The vision of the slimmer, fitter, more toned, bikini-ready version of ourselves dangling before us. It’s easy to take action. And it feels good.
The thing is, as many of us know, after a few weeks that initial rush of enthusiasm has waned and the Get Healthy practice we were initially so inspired by has become a chore, a grind, and a pain in the ass. Gradually the “yoga every day” commitment becomes every other day, then twice a week until the mat just sits gathering dust in the back of the car. The juicer whispering the promise of kick-starting each day with green juice made from kale and carrots becomes a white elephant taking up space on the kitchen worktop, a continual reminder we have not kept our promise to ourselves.
So: how to we beat this common phenomenon? How do we make Getting Healthy a happy habit we actually keep?
1. Replace a bad habit with a good habit, one at a time.
It’s easier to stick at a new healthy habit if you replace a bad habit with a good one, rather than just trying to stop a bad one. By substituting a more positive habit rather than just depriving yourself of something you like, you are far more likely to keep the habit up. So, stop having that glass of wine when you come in from work by driving home a different way and have a walk on the beach on the way. Make the post-work walk the new habit. Or give up the traditional Thursday Takeout Binge-fest by instituting a Healthy Night once a week where you and your partner take it in turns to cook a new healthy recipe. Or break the habit of reaching straight for the cheese and crackers by making that the time you Facetime people you never have time to catch up with. Creating positive, healthy rituals that crowd out bad habits is much more successful than just trying to stop doing something you secretly actually get a lot of pleasure from.
2. Make it a happy habit not an effort of willpower
Willpower is a finite resource. Sooner or later it will run out. Fact! So if you are relying only on willpower to get you to the gym or to drag out the juicer, then eventually you are bound to fall off the wagon. Far better to focus on what naturally pulls you forward rather than what you have to force yourself to do. That means choosing exercise that you genuinely LOVE. Food that you actually ENJOY. The less effort required the better, and the key to that is choosing what really feels sincerely delicious and fun for you.
3. Find an accountability system that works for you
Accountability is great. Different strokes for different folks however, and one person’s inspiration is another individual’s nightmare. So do what works for you. Maybe it’s committing to compete in a sports event. Maybe it’s joining a team challenge at the gym where your results are aggregated so you don’t want to let anyone else down. Maybe it’s getting three colleagues to commit to a walk around the block at lunchtime three days a week. You are smart: figure out a structure that keeps you accountable and motivated when the days are dark and summer seems a long way off.
4. Reconnect regularly with your WHY
Your “Why” is your Spiritual Fuel that powers you towards your goal. Reconnecting with why you chose to commit to this Get Healthy journey at the beginning when it was all shiny and exciting will help you to stay on track when the going gets tough and the shine has faded. Was it to feel good in your jeans? Or to have the energy to run around with your kids. Or to do a sub-4-hour marathon? Or to have toned arms? Or to be peaceful and calm and sleep well? Reconnect with why you started in the first place. And ask yourself, what habit do I wish I had started a year ago? Drinking more water? Running? A weekly yoga class? A daily green juice? Ask yourself what will you wish you had stuck at a year from now? Reconnect with your WHY and stay the course.
Making Getting Healthy a happy habit that sticks is totally possible; starting small, being consistent, and working with what pulls you forward with love not force is the key.