This post was sponsored by Nature Made® as a part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central.
There’s a simple reason that most New Year’s resolutions fail. It’s hard to make a major life change overnight. Instead, if you truly want to make a lasting, positive change in your life, the best approach is to slowly develop good habits. Don’t start a new exercise program, completely change your diet, and switch over to all-natural products overnight. I’m going to show you how you can end this year having met ALL of those goals, without feeling like you’re being punished. I’ve been following this exact process for the past year and the difference in my lifestyle has been dramatic, even though I didn’t struggle. It IS possible! Today, I’m going to explain how to make health a habit so that by next year, you’ll be living a much healthier lifestyle.
1. Establish Your Baseline
I find it really helpful to do an honest evaluation of where I am before I begin any type of improvement project. So, before you get around to setting specific goals or changing any behaviors, first make an honest assessment of where you are NOW. Be honest. No one is looking at this information except you.
- Keep a food journal for a week or write down from memory what you’ve eaten every day for the past few days. You might think you generally make healthy choices, but putting it down on paper helps you see if you’ve been fooling yourself.
- Circle on a calendar the last day you exercised. How many times have you been physically active for more than 30 minutes in a day over the past week? Run through a quick workout and see how much you can do and WRITE IT DOWN.
- If you want to start ridding your house of chemicals, make an inventory of your cleaning supplies and beauty products or photograph the cabinets and drawers where you keep them.
- Rate your overall stress level. How many hours of sleep are you getting at night?
- How much water are you drinking each day? How much alcohol, soda, or coffee?
After you’ve assessed your current state of health, decide what areas you’d like to improve in. Maybe you really are making healthy food choices, but you haven’t been getting enough physical activity. Or perhaps you’re happy with your health in both those regards but want to start eliminating harmful ingredients from your home. Start to make a list of goals based on the ideal state you’d like to reach.
2. Identify Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Do not skip this step! If you want to be successful in building healthy habits, you need to figure out how to avoid potential pitfalls by evaluating your weaknesses. For example, I have trouble with remembering things I need to do unless I set a reminder or keep a visual cue where I cannot miss it. So, to remind myself to take my daily vitamins, I put them in front of my coffee and tea k-cups. I literally have to reach around them (or to the shelf above them) in order to get my morning caffeine fix.
Another weakness I have is that I often opt for whatever is quickest and easiest. If I haven’t stocked the fridge and pantry with healthy snacks or grab-and-go items, I’ll end up grabbing an empty-calorie snack from the first vending machine I see. Or worse, hitting a fast food drive thru. Since one of my strengths is list making and sticking to my calendar, I write my shopping trips on my calendar and keep a running grocery list in my planner so I can avoid running out of fresh fruit, nuts, and popcorn (my healthy go-to snacks).
I’m very competitive so I use that knowledge about myself to help me reach my goals. When my goal was to get more exercise, I joined a group Fitbit challenge to make sure I was moving a lot each day. I knew I would make the extra effort to exercise so that I could beat my friends. I’m not proud of this characteristic, but since I was honest with myself about it, I was able to make it work to my advantage.
3. Create Your Goal
At the end of step one, you should have made a list of goals. If your goals are broad, break them down into smaller goals. For example, if you want to be better about staying hydrated, you can break that down into:
- Drink less soda or coffee
- Drink a full glass of water with every meal
- Drink a full glass of water with lemon juice first thing in the morning
Keep that list somewhere safe, but for now, just choose one specific goal. Make it an easy one. For me, it was to remember to take my vitamins every day. In case you’re curious, I take a multivitamin that also has omega-3’s (not only because I can knock out two things with one vitamin, but also because it comes in chewable form, which I prefer); B12 because I’ve read about its potential benefits including combating fatigue and depression and improved cell reproduction (for healthy skin, hair, and nails); and D3 for its potential benefits to bone, muscle, and immune health. I buy the Nature Made brand since it’s affordable and easy to find (I get mine at Walmart during one of my dozens of trips there each month). It also happens to be the best-selling brand of vitamins and supplements1.
If you’re overwhelmed by this goal setting process, let someone else do the thinking for you. Nature Made has created a 30-Day Healthy Habit Builder program that will help guide you through specific goals targeted to your main priority (e.g. lose weight or get energized). You choose the 4 habits you want to work on over the next 30 days. Each week you’ll get an e-mail with challenges designed to motivate you and tips to help you.
In addition, you’ll be automatically entered to win a grand prize of $5,000 and by completing the challenges, you’re entered to win other great prizes like $250 cash!2
4. Track Your Progress
To help you develop this new habit, write down your goal and place it somewhere visible. This can be your bathroom mirror, on your desk, the refrigerator door, etc. Just make sure it’s somewhere you’ll see it EVERY DAY as a constant reminder. Better yet, use a tracking sheet so you can check off each day so you can see that you are making progress. I’ve created this printable goal tracker to help you. I keep mine on my refrigerator door.
After you’ve succeeded in performing this new task every day for a month, choose a second goal to pursue. Add it to your tracking sheet (along with the first goal) and check off each day for both items. Continue adding new goals, but only after you’ve performed the previous tasks consistently for 3-4 weeks. The tracking sheet above will let you track up to 10 goals at once, but realistically, you’ll probably never need to track more than five. You’ll find that after you’ve performed a task for a couple of months, you no longer need the reinforcement of the tracking sheet to keep it up. It will be a new habit!
5. Draft Your Team
Research shows that we are more likely to stick to our goals if we have the support of others. Humans are social creatures and that need to be accepted and loved is a strong motivator. Find friends with similar goals and hold each other accountable. Let your family and friends know the goals you are pursuing and the progress you are making so that they can encourage you along the way. If your immediate social circle isn’t supportive of the changes you are making, branch out and find like-minded individuals. Join a walking group at the park, find a Facebook group that shares healthy living tips and support, or take a healthy cooking class.
You can also sign up for Nature Made’s Daily Boost. Submit your e-mail address to get daily boosts sent directly to your inbox to help you on your path to wellness. You can share your progress and tips on social media to inspire others and be inspired by others by checking out the social media shares that are displayed on the “Wellness Inspiration” page of the site.
6. Reinforce Good Decisions
Think of things you enjoy doing. Do you like shopping? Why? Because you leave the store with items that will enhance your life, home, or self-image. Do you like to play party games with friends? Why? Because it’s fun and relaxing and takes your mind off of other things that cause you stress. It’s not hard for us to talk ourselves into doing these things because we get an immediate reward. Start to form positive associations with the healthy habits you want to develop. I like to play mindless games like Candy Crush on my phone. I don’t waste an entire day on a game that doesn’t move my life, family, or business forward so I try to avoid playing it. However, allowing myself 5 minutes of play time is a great reward for performing one of my goals each day. The game is the perfect reward for me because I get instant gratification without creating a negative impact on my day.
You can make your reward whatever you want. As long as it’s something you really like and can enjoy without sabotaging your progress. Some other rewards I have used are:
- A piece of dark chocolate after each “clean” meal
- A phone call to a friend to just chat after a workout
- An early bedtime to enjoy a new book after a day of making and using natural cleaning products
7. Inspire Others
As you improve your health, you will be looking and feeling better and will probably be more fun to be around. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone felt great and was pleasant to be with? Don’t let your changes for the better stop with you! Inspire others by sharing your efforts and your progress.
1 Based in part on data reported by Nielsen through its Scantrack Service for the Vitamins Category for 52-week period ending 1/02/2016, for the xAOC Market. Copyright © 2016 Nielsen