Lean in, because I’m sharing the secret to sticking with healthy habits.
Last week, I polled my Facebook community and asked what everyone’s number one challenge is right now when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle and sticking with healthy habits.
Without a doubt, the clear winner is TIME. Everyone feels pressured for time and it’s affecting our commitments to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
If you can relate to this, please know that you are NOT alone in feeling this way. In fact, I’m almost certain that literally every single human being feels pressed for time, and that pressure pushes health goals to the back burner.
So why is it that some people seem to have an easier time sticking to their goals and commitments?
In my eight years’ experience as a health coach, what I’ve found is that people who stay on track with their health goals and habits are people who create and stick to some kind of daily routine. The secret to sticking with healthy habits is creating daily routines.
Habits vs Routines
There’s a lot of information out there about creating healthier habits. Let’s talk about the difference in a habit and a routine.
A habit is an action done on a regular basis. Brushing your teeth every morning is an example of a habit.
A routine is a sequence of actions regularly followed. An example of your morning bathroom routine might be going to pee, brushing your teeth and washing your face. Most days, you probably do the same thing first, the same thing next and the same thing last. You follow this sequence of actions routinely and at this point, you probably don’t think too much about it because you’re on auto pilot. But you certainly don’t forget to do these things each day (hopefully).
Routines are the key to success.
Creating new habits is a great concept. But sometimes it’s hard to make a new habit stick, especially if it’s something you’re trying to randomly work into your day. How do you remind yourself to do it, and how can you remember to keep doing it again and again each day, with consistency?
Setting up routines is the secret to sticking with healthy habits because routines help you in knowing what needs to happen, and in what order. When you have a set order of actions to follow, it helps you stay on track which assists in forming healthy habits. This can actually decrease stress and also help you to feel more grounded and centered throughout the day.
What’s the best way to set up daily routines in order to stick with healthy habits?
Now this is the part that some people find incredibly frustrating, because we all just like to be told what to do and when to do it.
But here’s the skinny: there’s not one right or best way to set up a routine. It really comes down to what you want to bring more attention to in your life, and where you’d like to create change.
I’m sharing the framework I use for teaching people to set up daily routines to stick with healthy habits here now. This is the exact framework that I teach in my signature Wellness For Weight Loss program:
Step 1: Figure out where to start.
Step 2: Identify simple actions that will make up your routine.
Step 3: Stick to your new routine consistently for two weeks.
Step 4: Allow (and encourage!) your routine to adjust when needed.
Let’s talk more about each these steps and how creating daily routines is the secret to healthy habits…
#1 | FIGURE OUT WHERE TO START
Figure out the part of your day that’s most challenging for you or where you want to bring more intention and awareness, and start by setting up some kind of a routine there.
Do you find it challenging to make healthy choices in the morning? Maybe you want to bring more attention to setting up a morning routine that makes you feel grounded and well-nourished before you move into the rest of the day.
Is lunch time the part of the day that trips you up the most? Or maybe you’ve got some bad habits in the afternoon, at dinnertime or at nighttime that you’d like to gain some control around.
Where would it serve you most to set up some kind of a routine?
Personally, I like having some structure to the first part of my day. I like knowing what to do first, then second, then third when it’s early in the morning and my brain is still waking up. So a morning routine works well for someone like me. But if you don’t like the way a morning routine feels, then you’re not likely to stick with it. Setting up an afternoon routine or a nighttime routine might be better suited for you.
Another idea is to set up a simple routine for planning and prepping healthy foods each week, if that’s something you’d like to focus more on.
#2 | IDENTIFY SIMPLE ACTIONS THAT WILL MAKE UP YOUR ROUTINE
Identify 3-5 things you can do during the time frame that you identified in Step 1. Remember, routines are a sequence of actions.
Here are a few suggestions for actions you could take during a morning routine:
- Drink water first, then coffee once you’ve hydrated.
- Take 10 deep breaths.
- Move your body for 30 minutes to an hour.
- Eat a nourishing breakfast with protein, fiber and some healthy fat.
Here are a few suggestions for actions you could take during a lunchtime routine:
- Put your phone on silent while you eat and don’t pick it up.
- Pause for a moment of gratitude or intention, or say a small prayer before you begin to eat.
- Slowly chew each bite of food and put your fork down between bites.
- Stay tuned into your body, pay attention to when you begin to feel about 75-80% full, and stop eating at that point.
Here are a few suggestions for actions you could take during a nighttime routine:
- Establish what time you need to be asleep by in order to get at least 7 hours of sleep.
- Dim the lights around your home around an hour and a half before you want to be asleep.
- Put your phone on airplane mode or do not disturb, and put it away so you’re not tempted to scroll or surf (blue light from devices inhibits production of your sleep hormone).
- Make a cup of herbal tea.
- Take a hot bath or read a few pages of a book.
- Turn the lights out a few minutes before it’s time to go to sleep.
Here are a few suggestions for actions you could take during a weekly meal prep routine:
- Look at your family’s schedule for the week ahead; take note of any events.
- Make a quick plan for what foods you’ll prep for dinner each night.
- Make a shopping list and grocery shop.
- Batch prep 3-5 foods that you’ll have ready in the fridge that are components of the meals you’ve planned out for your family each week.
These are just a few suggestions. Write down the actions you’d like to do more regularly and schedule them into your routine.
#3 | STICK TO YOUR NEW ROUTINE CONSISTENTLY FOR TWO WEEKS
Stick to your new routine consistently for at least two weeks, without breaking it if possible.
The more you intentionally stick to your new desired routine, the more it will become like second nature and you’ll start to follow it every day, without much thought. Remember that the secret to healthy habits is in your daily routine, and that the goal with daily routines is to get to where you’re on auto pilot with your daily actions.
But it’s going to take some effort at first. Write it down somewhere, and refer back to it as often as you need to. Set your alarm a little bit earlier in the morning if needed. Go to bed an hour earlier. Do what you have to do to stick to the new routine.
#4 | ALLOW YOUR ROUTINE TO ADJUST WHEN NEEDED
Routines will ebb, flow and change during the various cycles of your life.
For instance, if you have a baby, your routine will change.
Your routine will be different during the times of year your kids are in school, versus when they aren’t.
Your routine might need to be adjusted if you start a new job.
Your routine may need to change when the seasons change. If a 6:30am jog or walk outside is part of your normal daily routine during the warmer months, that may need to change as the weather turns cold. You get the idea.
Routines are the way to prioritize taking care of yourself.
While I can’t help you gain more hours in your day, I can give you tools and resources that help you to make the most of the hours you do have in the day.
When you set up routines that work for your health and wellness goals, you prioritize the things that need to happen on a daily basis to work towards those goals. Simply said, routines are the small daily actions and practices, done consistently, that will add up big and help you see the positive shifts you want in your life. Your routines will become your own secret to staying on track with your healthy habits.