Does this sound familiar? You start on a healthy program giving it your all, and then after a short period of time, it falls by the wayside. The yearly tradition of New Year’s resolutions is an example of how many people experience the same challenge: how to get healthy and stay healthy.
Exercising more, losing weight, and eating healthy are some of the changes that many want to do, but either can’t get started or stop before reaching goals. Even desired change is difficult if you don’t how to go about getting started. So, the idea of losing weight for example never gets off the ground because you don’t know how to begin. Or you may work on changing a habit but give up on it. To attain success, it may be that you just need a different method other than how it’s usually done.
The All or Nothing Approach
The problem with most lifestyle change decisions is the all or nothing approach. When you make big changes all at once and fail to maintain the change, recrimination, guilt, and shame get piled onto the psyche, making it even harder to get back on track.
The mind resists change because the brain creates neural shortcuts so it doesn’t need to relearn things done regularly. It would be difficult to live if the brain had to relearn every day to eat. These neural pathways are not easily changed, especially all at once. But, there are ways to make new pathways that aren’t such a “shock” to the mind.
Baby Step Bigger Gains
Change done with small incremental steps has a better chance of success. Small changes are not so overwhelming to initiate and maintain. They are easier to incorporate because there is flexibility. Small steps don’t demand the psyche to do a complete flip at once. In other words, your mind is more willing to cooperate.
Another small step action is to work on one change at a time. Trying to incorporate too many new changes at once can engulf you. Let the success of one change be the inspiration for another.
While changing a habit in increments is slower, the gains are bigger because they become permanent. The American Psychological Association suggests looking at making a change as an evolution instead of a resolution. When you approach change as an evolution it becomes a process. A resolution is a decree that to the mind is a demand. We all know how the mind responds to demands.
One Day at a Time
Part of the small step approach to change is doing it one day at a time. It doesn’t mean you don’t set goals. Goals can be set but make them small. Also, you don’t put pressure on yourself by living in the future.
Saying things, such as you need to lose weight before a wedding, prom, school reunion, etc. puts undue pressure on yourself to accomplish “x” by a certain amount of time. Then when you see change isn’t happening fast enough as the specific date looms, you give up. The other scenario is you accomplish losing the weight for the specific event and gain it all back right afterward.
Support Your Efforts
Creating change in incremental steps is more effective if you create some support around it. Keep a journal. Writing gives the mind stuff a place to land instead of rattling about inside your head. Writing about worries, successes, gripes, and anything else that pours out is a release valve.
Enlist someone to share your goals, setbacks, and successes with. The person can be your cheerleader when needed or just someone who listens. Choose someone who is supportive, a good listener, and not critical.
- The incremental approach to change is a process.
- Small steps result in bigger gains.
- Change one habit at a time.
- Set small goals and don’t live in the future.
- Create support systems.
No matter the change you want to make, if you have a plan that uses incremental steps that can be built on and is supported by other techniques, you will succeed. New healthy habits also lead to incorporating other healthy choices because once begun a healthy lifestyle feeds on itself.
Habit Formation. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/habit-formation
Making lifestyle changes that last. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/lifestyle-changes.aspx.