Overall health and wellness doesn’t come by following the latest diet or health fad. It’s about how you live your life on a day-to-day basis and the kind of daily choices you make.
We believe that health and vitality are achieved through habit formation. This means taking small steps on a day-to-day basis that ultimately lead to big changes.
But, what do we mean when we talk about habit building and what’s the best way to go about it?
To answer that, we’ve broken down the process into 6 easy steps:
Step 1: Identify your health and wellness goals.
The first step involved in building health habits is to identify what your larger wellness goal are. This could be as simple as “get healthy” or “get healthier”. That’s great, but I’m going to ask you to break this down even further. What does “getting healthy” mean for you? For example, do you want to lose weight, improve sleep, reduce stress, increase physical fitness, etc.?
It’s highly likely you will have multiple wellness goals, and that’s great. Start by writing down a list of all of your goals and then prioritize them by order of importance. What do you want to focus on first? What’s most important to you?
Step 2: Identify health actions associated with each goal.
You’ve made your list. The next step will be to identify a series of health actions that will help you achieve each wellness goal.
For the purposes of this exercise, let’s say you want to focus on weight loss. We will now identify health actions that will help you to achieve this goal. Whether you have a small or large amount of weight to lose or, instead, are just focusing on reducing your fat to muscle ratio, the process is the same.
Now, choose a specific health action associated with this wellness goal. For example, for our guests at Mountain Trek interested in weight loss, we might recommend the following:
- Eating breakfast within 30 minutes of waking.
- Eating only half of the food on your plate every time you go to a restaurant.
- Packing two healthy and portioned snacks each day.
- Cooking for yourself at least 3 meals a week.
Come up with a list like the above for each wellness goal you have identified. Remember you can add to it or change it any time! Now pick a maximum of TWO actions (from either the same or separate wellness goals).
Why do we recommend only two? That’s because our experience shows us that it is only possible to incorporate one or two new habits into an average person’s lifestyle at a time. Choosing only two actions at a time maximizes your chances of success.
Step 3: Set a weekly target.
You’ve now decided on which of your health actions to focus on, and let’s say it is eating breakfast within 30 minutes of waking. The next step is to decide how many times per week you are going to do this.
At Mountain Trek, we recommend setting a target goal for yourself of no more than 5 days per week for each habit. That’s because our experience shows us that setting realistic goals and taking a regular break make it far more likely a person will succeed in transforming an action into a habit.
If you end up repeating your action more than 5 days a week, that’s just extra credit and we praise you for it!
If you end up not meeting your weekly target, don’t sweat it. Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint and missing your target every once in a while won’t impact your long term results. What’s important is to get back on track and not to beat yourself up for an occasional slip up.
Step 4: Monitor your progress and adjust if needed.
You know what health action you are working on and how many days a week you are going to do it. The next step is to keep track of it.
Write it down in your journal. Keep a piece of paper handy with a tally. Track it using your online calendar. Or, you can use Mountain Trek’s new Health & Habit Building App, which will keep track of your progress for you.
Whatever tool you decide to use, it’s important to monitor your activity, notice when you’re falling behind and congratulate yourself when you are achieving your goals! If you notice, for example, that you are having trouble eating breakfast within 30 minutes of waking 5 days per week, then consider adjusting to 3 days per week. If that still doesn’t work and you find it impossibly hard to have breakfast – then simply pick a new action to focus on!
Step 5. Reward your intention.
Here’s one of the best parts about habit formation – whether you are successful or not, you still get to reward yourself for your intention to do your best!
Rewards can be small or big, simple or complex. Some examples:
- Treat yourself to a manicure or pedicure.
- Indulge in a hot stone massage.
- Go to the local Humane society and spend the day playing and petting mankind’s favorite four-legged friends. Or simply borrow your neighbor’s dog for an hour!
- Make the time to indulge in a hot bath with some therapeutic rock salts or candles.
- Attend a local art exhibition or classical music concert.
The list goes on! You get the idea. Every week you should “reward” yourself for your intention to do your best with some kind of treat that is not associated with food.
Step 6: Do this for 6 months
The final step is to stay at this action for approximately 6 months. Yep, 6 months. That’s how long it takes to turn an action into a habit. Once you reach this point – you are done! The action of eating breakfast within 30 minutes of waking has now become ingrained in your system, and you don’t have to think about it anymore.
It may seem like a long time, but the longer you do it, the more second nature it will become. And, as you keep performing the action, you’ll start to notice the positive impact it is having on your life and overall health – and you may even start to enjoy or look forward to it!
Once the six months are over, it’s time to pat yourself on your back and go back to your original list of wellness goals and health actions. It’s time to pick another action or two and repeat the whole process!
For more tips and tricks related to habit building for wellness, we suggest you download Mountain Trek’s brand new Habit-Building & Goal-Tracking App in which we guide you through the process of achieving your wellness goals through habit building.