By now, nearly 80% of the resolutions we made a month ago to set and maintain healthy habits, are history. Remember the excitement you felt when you read all of those books and articles on how to set healthy habits, pumped up your motivation and willpower, set those cues/routines/rewards and took off on your journey to new, good habits? Poof. Gone.
Only 8-9% of resolution setters succeed. What do they have that you don’t have? Nothing. Whenever there’s a lapse, there are often feelings of disappointment, frustration and maybe even failure that lead to wanting to give up. These are common and understandable.
You remember how important it was to you when you made your commitment to health and fitness for 2019…uh…you do, don’t you? If not, start there. Remember your, “Why I got started in the first place.” Everyone’s reasons to maintain commitments to health and fitness, on the surface, appear different. But deep in the recesses of the mind, we want to live longer, better, happier. Need another reason? I didn’t think so.
In the late 1970s, researchers James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente were studying how to help people stop smoking. They developed the “Stages of Change” or “Transtheoretical Model” that teaches us how behavior change evolves and how to deal with inevitable – inevitable – lapses. Yes, lapses are inevitable. Here’s what they say can help get us moving forward again:
✓Identify the triggers that led to your lapse
✓Recognize the barriers to success and take steps to overcome these obstacles
✓Reaffirm your goals and commitment to change
Sounds easy, right? But of course, it’s not. Whether you set out in January to lose weight, exercise and eat healthier, spend more time with friends and family, read more books, the only way to accomplish these goals is to be thinking correctly in order to put into practice what Prochska and DiClemente advise. After all, the link is what you think.
For so many, it comes down to five derailing thoughts, or “DALPOs” as I call them:
Demands: “I shouldn’t have to work so hard at this habit.” Says who? You mean you’d prefer not to have to work at maintaining your habit?
Awfulizing: “It’s awful, terrible and horrible that I’m not succeeding in reaching my health and fitness goal” Maybe it’s just bad, but not awful, it’s hard but not too hard.
Low frustration tolerance: “I can’t stand this feeling of not keeping my commitment to my health and fitness.” Of course, you can tolerate it, and in fact, you can stand even worse.
People rating: “I’m a loser, a failure.” No, it just means you’re a fallible human being like everyone else facing a difficult challenge in habit change.
Overgeneralizing: “I always give up and never maintain a healthy habit” Always? There was never a time you didn’t? Of course, this is exaggerated thinking.
See how these thoughts can trigger a lapse and set up obstacles to successful habit change? See how the rational responses can reset your journey?
Unless you question and contradict these irrational thoughts, in order to replace them with more accurate and rational ones, you’ll block yourself from moving forward in maintaining your healthy habits.
So, to summarize:
1. Look at the results you visualized when you originally made your commitments. Use questions like these to help you refocus, using weight loss and achieving health as an example:
✓How does your weight concern you?
✓What are the advantages to you and your family if you lost weight?
✓What would be different in your life if you reached your healthy living weight goal?
✓What personal strengths have you drawn on when you’ve made other positive changes in your life?
✓Regardless of what it would take you to get there, how do you want your life to be different than it is in a year or two from now?
2. Recreate your toolbox. Above all, be sure to keep a rational response handy whenever one of those DALPOs pop into your head. Consider enlisting the help of family, friends, co-workers and workout buddies. Set up a “do this before that” calendar, putting your habit ahead of what you might find easier and more desirable to do. Be sure you’ve set a low enough bar to succeed. Pair your healthy habit that you may prefer not to do, with something you do find enjoyable.
3. Keep a “coach in your pocket.” Turn to a daily read like these three tips each day to help you stay on track:
1. That workout you didn’t do is the only bad workout you’ve had all week.
2. Stop looking for time to exercise today. Tonight, make the time to exercise tomorrow.
3. Never, ever, workout without working “in” first. In your mind, that is.
1. Sure it’s important to stretch before you exercise, both your body and your mind.
2. Write down the most empowering fitness thought you have, the one that fuels your exercise. Pack that in your gym bag and never leave home without it.
3. Now, write down that one derailing thought, the one that you use to rationalize not being physically active today. Next to it, ask yourself if that thought is true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, kind to your wellbeing (T.H.I.N.K.). Answer “no” to any of those questions? Time to question and contradict your thinking.
1. Don’t sweat the small stuff, sure. But when it comes to your health, nothing is small stuff. It’s all big stuff. So, stop stuffing!
2. Wait, you’re not dieting, are you? Diet has the word DIE in it!
3. Change, not chance, is what helps you arrive at a healthier weight. What’s your specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time bound, enthusiastically set and revisable (SMARTER) plan to change?
1. Let’s be frank. How does your weight concern you?
2. What are the advantages to you and your family if you lost weight?
3. What would be different in your life if you reached your healthy living weight goal?
1. Want to be happy? Free your heart from demands and expectations.
2. Want to be happy? Free your thoughts from the future, and savor this moment.
3. Want to be happy? Free your space from excess, and simplify.
The opinions shared in this article are those of the contributor and not Total Gym Direct.
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