Whether it’s breaking a bad habit or building a new one, we all have positive changes we would like to achieve in our lives. But sticking with it can be tough. So how do you stick with your goals and build healthy habits for the long run?
1. Be specific about your goal
Setting goals that are too vague can make things harder on ourselves. If your goal is to reduce your stress, you need to be specific about how you’re going to do that.
For example, it could be to practice mindful breathing for 5 mins each day or trying a yoga class once a week in your local area. That way you’ve not only defined what your goal is but have a path to achieving it as well.
2. Be realistic
Rather than setting big, audacious goals that are difficult to reach, try starting small with a goal you are likely to be able to achieve and build your way up from there.
For example, if you would like to increase your fitness, rather than aiming to go to the gym every day before work (which might be a big change to your routine and quite stressful) try something smaller. Such as aiming to do some form of physical exercise at least once a week consistently for two months. This way, if you aren’t able to make it to the gym, you can still meet your goal in other ways such as going for a walk around the block.
3. Keep it simple
Choose just one goal at a time. Having too many goals can be overwhelming. If there are too many challenging demands pulling at your attention, you’re more likely to fall back into old ways as your energy becomes drained.
For instance, if you are trying to improve your health by cutting back on drinking and eating healthier, perhaps just aim for one of these at a time so you are focused and clear on each one individually to help make the change.
4. Repetition is key
It’s easier to form a new habit when that habit is repeated. So, the more you repeat that positive habit, the better the chance it has of sticking.
For instance, if you want to create the habit of going to bed early and getting a good night’s sleep, then try to go to bed at the same time every night. Read our article, the physical and mental health effects of both a good and bad night’s sleep to find out more.
5. With a little help from our friends
Support from our peers is a great way to stay on track and share the positive experiences. Try and recruit a buddy to join in on the same goal as you and do your best to cheer each other on, celebrate the wins and offer support when things get tough. Having someone else keeping us accountable can be a great motivator!
6. But… but… but
When we’re trying to incorporate something new into our lives there’s always a point where self-doubt creeps in and we start to question our ability to achieve something. Try countering these negative thought loops with some optimism to help encourage yourself to stick with it.
For example, if you catch yourself thinking “I overslept again, my sleeping habits are so bad”, follow up with “but I’m going to keep trying and do my best to reach my goal.”
7. Don’t beat yourself up
We all stumble and fall sometimes, it’s human. If we succeeded first time at everything we tried, we would never learn a thing. Remember, it’s through our mistakes that we truly learn and grow. If it feels as though you’ve taken a step back, don’t be so hard on yourself. Just get up the next day and start again.
8. Replace a thing with a thing
Breaking bad habits is tough. When you remove something from your routine it can be uncomfortable and feel a bit weird at first. For some people, it can be helpful to replace the behaviour with something else that is less harmful.
For instance, if you’re trying to quit smoking you might chew some gum or have a mint every time you feel like a cigarette throughout the day. This will help distract your attention momentarily while your feel tempted and help build your confidence to resist the urges.
9. Track your progress
Keeping a record is a great motivating way to stay on track (which is why having specific goals is key). At the day-to-day level, working towards our goals can feel slow and it’s harder to notice the progress we are making long term. Take the time to reflect regularly on where you were when you started and what you’ve achieved, no matter how small the progress, it all counts!
10. Celebrate successes
Remember to acknowledge the wins and reward yourself for all the work you’re putting in. When you reach a milestone, celebrate! If you’re halfway to achieving your goal, celebrate. If you’ve fully completed your goal, celebrate! You’ve earned it.
If you would like to talk to somebody about putting together a personalised plan to help you create some new positive habits, feel free to call Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.
If it is an emergency, dial 000.