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Habits--They Can Change

 

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Like many of my patients, the struggle to exercise is very real to me.

I woke up one day a few weeks ago determined to work out. I had every intention to make it happen in the afternoon, before I left work. After making sure my gym clothes and shoes were in my bag, I was out the door.

The day was packed with seeing patients and accomplishing things around the office. When my last patient left, I began responding to emails, then busying myself with other tasks. Eventually, it was time to leave, and I hadn’t made any attempt to start exercising. The thought hit me as I put on my coat, “I was going to work out today. I really wanted to work out. Why didn’t it happen?” That was when I realized something needed to change.

Good intentions are not enough to change behavior, especially when distractions abound.  In the New York Time’s bestseller, The Power of Habit, the author describes what steps are required for creating what is referred to as a “habit loop”. Establishing habits will help you achieve your goals by turning your good intentions into action.

Now let’s talk about how to practically create a habit loop. First, find a cue to disrupt your typical daily routine and get you on track with the habit you want to create—exercise. Second, choose an exercise routine to follow. Third, consider a reward—is it satisfying enough to feel accomplished after a workout? Do you need to treat yourself to a cup of tea or sauna time afterwards? Having something to look forward to will help solidify your habit loop and continue to make the cue you created work in the future.

Cues look different for everyone—here are some ideas:

  • Dress for your work-out first thing in the morning, for all you early birds
  • Plan a stop to the gym before arriving home after finishing the work day
  • Set an alarm to remind you it’s time to exercise if you work at home
  • Plan to watch your favorite show while on the treadmill instead of sitting on the couch (watching your show can also be an example of a built-in reward).

At any rate, you need to decide what will work best for your lifestyle. For me, I decided that the moment my last patient left, I would put on my sneakers and get moving. This way, I had plenty of time to exercise and then finish up my work after feeling refreshed.

Now think about your habit loop. What cue will you create to trigger this habit? What routine will you follow? Lastly, what reward will help your habit stick?

 

Picture Source: http://habitsofmind.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Pic-22.jpg