Deciding to obtain a healthy lifestyle is one of the best choices you will ever make, and the accompanying mood boost from the arrival of warm weather makes this the perfect time to do it. The mere fact that you want to undertake this self-improvement project is admirable, and you should be proud of yourself. Congratulations! Now hold onto that feeling, because the success of reaching this goal depends heavily on two factors: your mentality toward the overall change you are seeking, and how you go about initializing those alterations. Let’s break things down step by step.
To get things rolling at a steady but moderate pace, make one mini-goal for yourself at a time, and be specific with what you want to achieve. For example, try skipping dessert at the inevitable summer family BBQs or take a walk around your neighborhood each evening before dinner. Perhaps you’ve noticed that the rising temperatures are when you are most tempted to indulge in a cold, sweet treat. Try to limit your treat day to once or twice a month, or replace it with a healthier option such as frozen yogurt or homemade fruit popsicles. Use the longer daylight hours of spring and summer as a no excuse reason to get outside and get moving. Think of the extra time as your own personal fitness class. The best part? You are the instructor and the student so you get to call the shots.
By challenging yourself with these baby steps, you will focus on making goals that are achievable right now. Over time, the completion of each step will create a mental foundation that is steeped in determination and self-reliance. This sturdy base works because it taps into the impulsive aspect of yourself that craves instant gratification. Appeasing this emotion correctly will help build confidence in your resolve as you acquire the mental fortitude necessary to persevere throughout the year.
Throw yourself a mental fiesta
Reflect on how far you have come with the successful integration of each baby step into your daily routine. Feel good about it. As you continue to make progress, take note of any healthy activity or special delight that you thoroughly enjoy, but rarely take part in. After you have unearthed this personal discovery, occasionally reward yourself with it. Healthy Through Habit, an article published by the Behavioral Science & Policy Association, claims that this system works for the same reason that slot machines do.
The article notes, “Behavior change interventions should give rewards in the way a slot machine does — at uncertain intervals but often enough to sufficiently motivate people to perform the target healthy behavior.”
Sporadically administering a positive reinforcement works better than implementing a predictable one, because the latter gives the impression that a certain behavior is not worth performing without the reward. Opting to celebrate the achievement of each mini-goal randomly bypasses this predictable sinkhole and fuels the desire for success efficiently. Soon, you will find yourself focusing on how you can squeeze additional mini-goals into your daily routine long after the warmer months have ended.
Stressful days happen. Prepare for these particularly challenging times by leaving happy little reminders for yourself in the mirror or on your desktop. These delightful messages are a great way to cheer on your future self when things get tough because they act as a way to highlight the effort you have put into achieving this healthy lifestyle. By visually reinforcing the firm belief in yourself, it will become easier for you to dismiss old, unhealthy habits when the urge arises. Use positive ways to help you stay motivated rather than negative methods that can quickly become addictive and put your health at serious risk such as alcohol or drugs. Nothing puts a damper on your healthy lifestyle changes quicker than bad habits, so avoid them to keep powering through and seeing positive change.
Vigilant throughout the year
If you do manage to lose sight of your goal, do not belittle yourself for forgetting. Be grateful that you noticed! Remembering is a sign that you are serious about your commitment to a healthy lifestyle. Make this observation count by identifying the emotional trigger or environmental event that occurred before your old habit was picked up. For example, perhaps you notice that once the spring and summer have passed, your healthy lifestyle falls by the wayside in a favor of a more cozy position bundled up indoors. Remember that you made a commitment to a healthy lifestyle, so you have to find ways to adapt to the curveballs life throws at you and keep that summer momentum. Once aware of this information, you will be better prepared to prevent it from happening next time.
Above all else, keep going. Focus on what you can do right now to recommit. You only fail if you give up on yourself. Remember that you are worth it and you deserve to live a healthy lifestyle. Include friends and family members in your self-improvement journey. Their supportive reassurance can be a great benefit to your development. However, if they do not approve of your healthy lifestyle choice, do not let them hold you down. The decision you are making to better yourself is the right one, and you should be proud! Take control this spring and summer and get your health back on track.