Are you having trouble creating healthy habits?
It can be difficult to follow through on our best intentions, whether it’s a new year’s resolution, a goal, or simply an intention. In this article, I’m sharing three specific things we must do to be able to form healthy habits and get rid of old ones.
I want to start by sharing a bit of my own story and how I came to find these.
There are three basic steps, but we all know that the process can be so much harder than simply looking at the steps. I followed these three steps and I was also doing the work of getting to the bottom of some of my subconscious beliefs, and the ways in which I would lean toward extremes.
I have a free download for my Balance and Empowerment Cards, an amazingly powerful tool to help you navigate extremes and find that balance.
When we’re in a habit space, we’re often in an extreme of some sort. We’re stuck in one way of doing certain things, one way of making things happen, and we often have to swing toward the other side of the pendulum to make a shift.
But how can we do that effectively to form better habits?
Why I Started Forming Healthy Habits
I struggled with my weight for a long time and overindulged in unhealthy sweets. I still love sweets, but I was a sugar addict. I’m not talking about the things that are called or considered sugars, but the idea of white refined sugar that is truly toxic to the body.
Long after I learned how horribly addictive sugar is, I knew I wanted to quit it. I wanted to stop eating things with white sugar in them, but it was difficult because I was so attached to them and craved them.
Every time I tried to deny myself those things, it didn’t work. I tried certain diets or certain motivational practices, and nothing seemed to work.
What Do You Value Most?
What really began to change things for me is when I started to look at, “How do I want to show up? What experience do I want to have?”
When I looked at how I wanted to feel, I started to look at what was causing me to not feel that way.
I knew for sure that eating anything with sugar in it was causing me to not feel the way that I wanted to feel. I wanted to feel energy. I wanted to feel empowered. I wanted to feel a sense of strength and motivation. Whenever I would have sugar, I would crash at the end of the day. I’d get really tired or irritable, and I’d even sometimes get depressed.
I had to decide how I wanted to feel and then do what was aligned with how I wanted to feel, and not just what I felt like doing. I might feel like having a cookie or a chocolate croissant, and I might feel like going to the coffee shop to get a sweet treat, but I had to ask myself, “Okay, you feel like that, but what do you really want for yourself?”
This is about aligning with your values.
I’ve written another blog about aligning with your core values. You can check that out.
In fact, you might even want to take a look at a course that I have called Becoming Effective, which helps you align with your core values for the sake of being more effective.
Effectiveness includes being able to create healthy patterns and healthy habits in your life.
The first of these three secrets to forming healthy habits has to do with, “What do I want to feel? What do I value most?” and then choosing according to that.
You don’t do what you feel like doing. You choose according to how you want to feel and what you care about.
How do you want to show up?
What do you want to create?
What do you want to happen?
We all want things and then we wonder, “I want this thing, but no matter how much I’m doing, I can’t seem to get there”.
Chances are, it’s because you’re not doing things in alignment with what you truly value or desire. You’re doing things based on what you feel like doing or what seems good or comforting in the moment.
Sugar was super comforting to me, so I would often feel like going to the refrigerator and eating something, but if I asked myself “Well, how do I want to feel tomorrow? How do I want to feel later today? How do I want to feel in my body?” then I had to consider what I want to feel, not just what I feel like doing.
You have to do it because you want to, not because you think you should. Not because you feel like it. Not because of some standard.
You have to do it because you actually want to. You actually value it when you ask, “Do I really want this?”
Practice the Habits
The second secret to forming healthy habits is practice.
I know you probably don’t like that one. Most people want to know that they can just quickly make the choice and that’s it.
The reality is, a habit is a pattern that’s formed in our bodies, in our brains via neural pathways that form based on repetitive experience. If we repeatedly get triggered by an emotion and go to the refrigerator to pull out a sugary treat, that’s what our brain is going to expect every time we get triggered by that emotion. We’re going to numb it or soothe it or be rewarded for some reason by it with a sugary treat, as an example.
So the only way to change our habits is to practice.
You have to choose based on what you want, not what you feel like. Consider what you are going to choose and then practice choosing that.
For me, it was choosing to breathe. I breathed through that longing. I learned to let myself feel what I was feeling and not try to fill a void, or soothe it, or numb it with sugary treats.
I learned to be with it.
Sometimes I would substitute something like a piece of fruit. It was sweet, but wasn’t white sugar. It was something healthy and nourishing for me that was not going to cause me to crash, yet still satisfied something in me.
Part of the idea of practicing is taking tiny baby steps. It doesn’t mean not to eat when you feel triggered to eat, but choose what to eat that will make you feel differently than say, refined sugar using my example.
Healthy Habits Can Only Be Formed with Self-Compassion
The final and third secret to forming healthy habits is compassion.
If you want to form healthy habits, you must have compassion for those around you who are used to you having other habits, and might not like it when you change your habits.
Most importantly, you need to have compassion for yourself. It’s hard to change a habit. You’re going to mess up.
I did not suddenly stop sugar and never go back to it ever again. I would often fall off that wagon or get tripped up in my efforts.
At this point in my life, I don’t have refined sugar unless I’m visiting someone, or once in a long while I might have a treat with a friend. I still love my sweets, but now they’re natural sweets like a piece of fruit, or maybe some honey or maple syrup, or things that I know don’t make me crash in the same way white sugar did. I did have to fully detox from sugar first. I had to really be very disciplined around doing what I wanted rather than what I felt like in order to get there.
In the process of being disciplined, I had to be compassionate with myself.
I had to not beat myself up if I messed up and ate something that didn’t work for me or made me feel bad. I had to trust myself enough, love myself enough, be compassionate toward myself enough to get back and start again, and know that I was taking baby steps and it was going to take time.
It’s like that old saying, two steps forward, one step back. Sometimes that’s how the initial movement goes. Then it might be ten steps forward, two or three steps back. It varies and it changes. For us to think that we’re going to move forward and never slip up, never falling back into these old habits or being tempted to go there, is being unfair.
We must be compassionate for the reality of being human and the challenges that we go through.
Let me know what kinds of habits you’ve had a challenge shifting into, and what kinds of habits you’re having a challenge shifting out of.
I’d also love to offer more blogs around things you’d love for me to talk about. Maybe it’s around habits or lifestyle. Maybe it’s around some other realm that you’d like to feel more empowered with. Let me know!
For a video version about secrets to forming healthy habits, watch here: