Habits don’t form overnight. Regardless if they’re healthy habits or not, it takes time. Habits are created by repetition and our brains learn to do these habits automatically without thinking. So whether it's working out every day or snacking in front of the TV, if these become repetitive, they’re going to become a habit.
Now, what about the habits we want to replace such as snacking before bed, too much screen time, or sitting too much? Or the habits that we want to form such as starting an exercise regimen and eating more vegetables, or goals we want to reach such as weight loss, quitting smoking, or running a race. These too take time, and in order to form these new habits, create new ones, or reach a goal – we have to start small. It’s important to focus on the big picture of course, but it takes many baby steps along the way to get there. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day! Neither are your new habits. This is where the concept of “Tiny Habits” comes into play. Let’s use a common example to showcase what we mean: The big goal can be to eat healthier, but the smaller step towards that goal is snacking late at night. We will focus on snacking late at night.
Make sure you want it. It is important to celebrate those small incremental steps along the way as you embark on any life changes. It takes time, persistence, patience, and bravery to reach any goal or change any habit. The first and most important step … YOU HAVE TO WANT IT! If you’re trying to change anything for someone else, chances are you may not get there. Your motivation to change is paramount to getting where you want to be. So, first, make sure you want this behavior for YOU and that you’re motivated to do what it takes. Okay great, onto step two!
Make a plan. So you have the behavior or goal you want to create – to stop snacking at night. Now how are you going to get there? It’s important to create some sort of a roadmap to success rather than just stopping cold turkey. If you go cold turkey and stop snacking at night immediately you may start to feel deprived. Sometimes deprivation can lead to binging or giving up on the goal all together. If you start small, you can slowly wean yourself off the unhealthy habit and slowly replace it with a healthier one.
Understand your triggers. What is it that triggers this habit you have formed of snacking late at night? You may notice that you watch TV at night which triggers you to want a snack as you watch TV. So perhaps the screen time is your trigger, but instead of not snacking – we can find something healthier to do to replace that habit. This brings us to step 4.
Replace the habit. When it comes to changing habits we are most successful when we replace a habit instead of removing it. Working off our example, when we go to watch TV instead of having a bowl of popcorn or a bag of chips, we replace that with a cup of herbal tea. You are still watching TV, you are still putting something in your body, but it is a healthier swap. The tea will fill that gap of needing something to do but will also have an additional benefit of relaxing you! Win-win!
Consistency. When forming any new behavior, consistency is imperative. As mentioned above, having too big of a goal or going all out will sometimes lead to deprivation or biting off more than we can chew. So instead of saying, “Okay I’m going to switch to tea every day instead of snacking”. Perhaps start with one day. Then two, then three … etc. Before you know it, you’ll be onto drinking tea every night instead of snacking and BOOM a healthier habit is formed!
Slip-ups happen. We all slip up occasionally. There will be a night when you want to snack. There will be a night when you give into the temptation. IT’S OK! Slip-ups happen, but it’s what we do with them that matters. If you slip up, try not to beat yourself up and give up all together. This is not an all-or-nothing situation. Give yourself some grace, you’re human! Instead, if you slip up understand WHY. Perhaps you didn’t eat dinner, perhaps you were upset about something and were emotionally eating. Whatever the why is, understand it, give yourself some grace, and move on. Tomorrow is another day to succeed!
CELEBRATE those tiny victories!!! This is most important. We don’t just celebrate when the job is done. We celebrate all those tiny steps along the way! Today I thought about the tea I was going to have instead of my late-night snack (WOOHOO!). Today I had tea instead of pretzels while I watched TV (YES!!!), I am on day 3 of not snacking at night (HOORAY!!!). Celebrate these victories. They give you the confidence to keep going. They help you believe in your ability to make these changes and keep them going.
Whatever your goals are, remember that creating the tiny habits to get there will help you succeed! Need some help? Try a health coach! We’ll help you get where you want to be and be your cheerleader along the way.