“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." - Aristotle
There certainly isn't a truer word spoken about leading a healthy lifestyle - when it comes to food choices and exercise, being able to keep up the good habit is the key to success which leads to living a sustainable healthy and happy life. It sounds so simple - so why do a lot of people struggle with it so much?
When we embark on a new routine (especially at the start of the New Year) we give it our all, sometimes throwing ourselves into a punishing schedule of workouts and a restricted diet. The problem with this lifestyle is that for most people, it's not sustainable.
So are there any proven tips or tricks to help with habit formation? Small actions repeated daily can be they key to forming a habit. As explained in The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, there is a simple neurological loop at the core of every habit, a loop that consists of three parts: A cue, a routine and a reward. There is one wonderfully simple practice you can do which works on this model - all you need is a calendar and a pen and to remember not to break the chain!
Here's how it works
Get a big wall calendar (like this amazon one will do) and stick it on a wall that you look at a lot. Every day that you do something active, draw a big cross on the calender. After a few days, if you successfully do something active every day then you will create a chain and you'll find yourself not wanting to break it. Before long you'll have created a habit.
The ‘cue’ is that there is no cross in the up and coming days which signals to you that you need to do something active. Ideally you plan in advance to ensure you will be putting a cross in each day, but even if it gets towards the end of the day and you have missed your favorite Move workout class, you can do anything from a 7 min at home workout to quick run to earn that ‘tick’ in the box. The routine is getting active and the reward is the physical act of crossing off another day and seeing that chain grow (not to mention all the other awesome by products of exercise including that feel good rush of endorphins!)
As this happens repeatedly, the process slowly becomes more automated. Eventually the Cue and the Reward work together to form powerful neurological cravings that drive us to want to carry out the routine and you no longer need the calendar! Try it today!