Changing a habit is a wonderful skill to develop, which improves health more than any medications or treatment we’ve developed in Western Medicine.
We’ve addressed habit change in the past because it has the power to transform the health of our patients. In fact, it’s a skill like any other skill that anyone can develop – learning a language, painting, or learning computers.
Some say they can’t learn new habits; we remind them they already have many habits, and some are much more recent than they think. What time do you wake up every morning? What do you have for breakfast? What do you say when you answer a phone call?
1. Start Small
Begin with the final ideal habit goal in mind and break it into the smallest pieces. For those who want to start a yoga routine, stretching your shoulders and knees right when you wake up in the morning while still in bed is a great start.
2. Set Clear Goals
It’s common to set lofty habit goals that only cause stress and hardly impact our health. Instead, setting clear goals and defending what a successful habit change would look like makes it an easier goal to achieve.
Patient MA wanted to incorporate resistance training as he was getting into his 70s but the idea of going to the gym everyday was daunting. Insted, his ideal goal was to do some resistance training daily even if it was just a few minutes with a resistance band.
3. Link Habits
If you get on your phone at night before sleep, opening the meditation app on your phone is more likely to lead to successfully adopting that habit than carving out a separate time in your daily routine.
4. Track Success
Habit Tracker and many apps like it are a good way to track your progress. Looking back, it’s easy to see that you had many successes, even if there were days or weeks at a time when you didn’t meet your goals.
5. Get Support
Also called accountability, letting someone around you know what you’re trying to achieve is a great way to hold yourself accountable but feel supported by others.
Patient RN lost her temper often when bringing her work home which shot up her blood sugars on her CGM. She asked her family kindly to remind her and support her to step away and do some deep breathing every time she verbally lost it over her work.
6. Reward Wins
Rewarding even the tiniest victory is a way to reprogram the neurons and neurotransmitters to make the habit stick. Tiny wins, such as even trying to cook at home is a success.
7. Patience & Persistence
The main reason we give up on imprinting a habit onto our nervous system is that we don’t give it enough time to stick. The failures are a critical part of making the habit a long-lasting one.
We worked with patient JQ for nearly 3 years to build a meditation regimen to lower his stress levels. Finally he figured out a method that worked for him and though he doesn’t meditate daily the result is that his inflammatory markers are down – that was our goal, after all.
We work with all individuals whose goal is to prevent chronic diseases, enjoy wellness, and live a more pleasant life.