Ever wondered why you often revert to your old ways when trying to make a behavior change? Creating lasting habits is hard but we've brought in our A team to teach us why habit creation fails and how we can avoid those mistakes when making a change. Meet Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, registered dietitian, author of “The Better Period Food Solution” and host of Well+Good’s YouTube series, “You Versus Food.” She's knows a thing or two about habits and their relationship to food and she's here to share her insight.
There is no doubt that habits are hard to form. The journey to habit formation is often not pretty, and can leave you confused, frustrated, and disappointed. But successfully establishing a habit can help you feel empowered, motivated, and confident.
Truth be told, forming a new habit can also be overwhelming in the beginning! To keep the good vibes going, be sure you are setting realistic, attainable goals — remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day! Making several small changes over a long period of time is much better, and easier, than making one big change all at once. That way, it is less overwhelming and allows you to make progress one step at a time.
So, how can we fight the ups and downs of forming a habit to ensure that we come out on top? Have no fear, Tracy is here!
Stage 1: The Honeymoon Period
When forming a habit, the beginning phase of execution is nothing short of pure bliss. There is something to be said about having a fresh and new start. You are excited about this future endeavor you are about to take on, ready for change, and more motivated than ever! Whether you are trying to exercise more, write in a journal every night before bed, or decrease your time scrolling the ‘gram, the formation of these habits is both exciting and refreshing. You feel in your heart that you can truly accomplish what you are setting out to do.
Try to cherish these beginning feelings of forming a new habit.This period can be way too quick, so keep positive and blissful thoughts in your back pocket to inspire your future self to keep on keepin’ on!
Stage 2: Small Battles
Here come the setbacks. Perhaps you aren’t experiencing the success you had hoped at this point. You are feeling down and losing motivation. You’ve probably asked yourself if your goal is even worth it at this point? Trust me, we’ve all been there.
For example, if you are trying to form the habit of eating more vegetables to be healthier, don’t force yourself to eat veggies you don’t like, such as raw broccoli or celery. Learn how to cook and prepare veggies that way you like them, either sautéed in olive oil, lemon, and garlic or tossed with miso dressing and fresh ginger. Or, if you’ve missed a few days at the gym because work deadlines have ramped up, look at those days as outliers but not the new norm.
Tackle each challenge in a way that won’t overwhelm you and will keep you on the path towards habit formation. Face the battles head on and find realistic solutions that won’t derail you completely.
Stage 3: The Breakthrough
This stage is exactly how it sounds, you’ve made an applause worthy breakthrough! Temptations and challenges are a thing of the past and your commitment has finally paid off. You can successfully say you have formed a habit when you are no longer making a conscious effort to do it every day—it just becomes part of your life. You may even forget that it was once difficult for you to cut back on your screen time or eat more veggies during the day. You feel good about yourself, your life, and may even feel motivated to take on another habit you want to conquer.
While the breakthrough period is amazing, don’t expect to be there forever. Life happens, but that’s the way it is supposed to be! Remember that feeling I told you to bottle at the beginning of starting this habitual pursuit during the honeymoon period? Sometimes, it is ok to take a big sip of that motivational juice to keep that fire under your butt burning!
The verdict on habit forming? Find sources of motivation, dig deep to understand “why” you want to change, practice compassion when things don’t go as picture perfect, and tackle one challenge at a time. At the end of the day, trying is better than not trying at all. If you fix one plank at a time on a wooden bridge, eventually you’ll be able to make it to the other side! You’ve got this!
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