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10 Science-backed Tips to Making a Health Behavior Change that Sticks

New Year Resolutions that Stick

Whether it is a resolution to lose weight, to do more exercise, or to consume less sugar, we all have encountered hardships trying to stick with them.

Health-related New Year Resolutions are easy to make, but hard to implement. We all could use some healthy behavior changes that continue past January.

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10 Science-backed Tips to Making a Health Behavior Change that Sticks

10 Science-backed Tips to Making a Health Behavior Change that Sticks

https://medium.com/lifeomic/10-science-backed-tips-to-making-a-health-behavior-change-that-sticks-8655c3bbde50

medium.com

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Key Ideas

New Year Resolutions that Stick

Whether it is a resolution to lose weight, to do more exercise, or to consume less sugar, we all have encountered hardships trying to stick with them.

Health-related New Year Resolutions are easy to make, but hard to implement. We all could use some healthy behavior changes that continue past January.

One Thing At A Time

Making resolutions requires no effort, but if we decide to suddenly shift towards improving too many of our behaviors at once, it can backfire.

Focus on one thing that you want to change, at a time, and commit to it.

What You Can Control

You may not be able to change the external circumstances, stressful situations, or work environment. What you can do is control how you react to negative forces and stressful situations.

For example: If you get unhealthy food at your home, you can control how or when you eat it.

The Social Cognitive Theory

The Social Cognitive Theory states that a mix of personal and environmental determinants influence our behavior, our beliefs and the outcomes we expect if we do act as planned.

Do Some Research

If you want to change your behavior, break an unhealthy habit, or develop a new habit, find out all the information about it.

Find out if it suits you and your body, and how much you need to push yourself. If you can see how it benefits you, it can work as a motivation to keep up with the change.

Towards a Healthy Habit

There are five stages in the process of shifting towards a healthy practice:

  • Contemplation
  • Seeking Advice
  • Preparation
  • Action
  • Maintenance of the new behavior.

Tell Your Friends

Seeking support, asking for help, or even making your progress visible to others helps you with social support and an added motivation.

It also weeds out potential cheat moments as your friends know about your regime.

Change Your Environment

Trying to create a new healthy habit while being in the same environment or surroundings can be difficult. Changing your surroundings to suit your new resolution ensures you adhere to it.

For example: If you are trying to cut on sugar, your pantry should not be filled with candy, but with fruits.

Social Peer Pressure

People get motivated socially, as there are a lot of people with you, engaging in the same challenges to lead a healthier and better life.

For example: If we see social media posts of a friend exercising regularly, it can help motivate us to be more active.

Small And Attainable Goals

We all want to accomplish a lot of things, some of which cannot be suddenly achievable. We need to work on small and attainable goals, inching towards our bigger goal, step-by-step.

For example: If you cannot suddenly start going to bed early, try going a few minutes earlier than the night before.

Celebrate Your Success

Reward yourself and celebrate the goals you accomplish, and the milestones you complete.

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Successful behavior change

One potential problem when changing behaviors is that we're too often motivated by negatives such as guilt, fear, or regret.

  • Research found that long-lasting change in behavior is mo...
Change is a process

... not an event. The transtheoretical model (TTM) presupposes that at any given time, a person is in one of five stages of change: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance.

Each stage is a preparation for the next one, so you mustn't hurry through or skip stages.

Precontemplation

At this stage, you have no conscious intention of making a change. People in this stage tend to avoid reading, talking, or thinking about unhealthy behavior. However, their awareness and interest may be sparked by outside influences.

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Meaningful productivity

The best work happens in short intensive deep work spurts (1–3 hours, no distractions). 

Your best thinking  will actually happen while you’re away from your work, “recovering.” B...

The first 3 hours of the day

...are your most precious for maximized productivity. 

Your brain is most attuned first thing in the morning, and so are your energy levels. Consequently, the best time to do your best work is during this time.

The “90–90–1” rule

Spend the first 90 minutes of your workday on your #1 priority, nothing else. 

Zero distractions. Just get that work done.

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Problematic Dietary Guidelines
  • Dietary guidelines, which came in the 1970s, instructed people to cut the fat from their diet, and increase the carbohydrates. Eating more of bread and sugar has contributed sign...
Limit Your Eating

Several new studies are claiming that restricting our meals, and not eating post-afternoon, has some remarkable benefits.

Limiting our eating has produced miraculous results in these studies, where insulin levels of the body along with insulin resistance, dropped due to the semi-fasting.

Last Meal At 2 pm

Eating in your last meal of the day in the afternoon results in a 16 to 18 hour fast, which can significantly boost your health, according to research.

The tests also show that it is not hard to fast in the evening, and green tea, coffee etc. can help as a fasting aid.

Intermittent fasting...

 ...is an increasingly popular eating pattern that involves not eating or sharply restricting your food intake for certain periods of time. It may boost your health. However, fa...

Popular regimens of fasting:
  • The 5:2 Pattern: restrict your calorie intake for two days per week (500 calories per day for women and 600 for men).
  • The 6:1 Pattern: similar to the 5:2, but there’s only one day of reduced calorie intake instead of two.
  • “Eat Stop Eat”: a 24-hour complete fast, 1–2 times per week.
  • The 16:8 Pattern: only consuming food in an eight-hour window and fasting for 16 hours a day, every day of the week.
Keep fasting periods short

Longer periods of fasting increase your risk of side effects, such as dehydration, dizziness, and fainting. 

The best way to avoid these side effects is to stick to shorter fasting periods of up to 24 hours — especially when you’re just starting out.

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The Rush of Motivation

During the first week of the new year, there is a rush of motivated people who want to achieve their respective self-improvement goals. But then all this rush always tapers off, with only about 8 %...

Procrastinating

Procrastination, or the way we let pending tasks linger on, just avoiding them, is one of the main reasons our goals don't materialize.

The longer any work is avoided the harder it becomes to eventually do it.

Like dishes piling up in the kitchen sink, they get harder and harder to do as the load increases.

Fear as the Cause of Inaction

Fear causes us to procrastinate. It can be:

  • Fear of change
  • Fear of leaving our comfort zone
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of what other people would think of us

We justify these fears by imaginary different reasons, but the root cause is not related to our invented reasons, it is our inherent fear.

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New Year Resolutions
New Year Resolutions

93% of us set new year resolutions, with the common themes being about losing weight, eating better, starting an exercise regime, or saving money.

Research shows that 45% of people ...

Authentic Motivation

Why we set our goals matters. If it is out of fear or social expectations, then they are not going to last.

Authentic values are what helps achieve our goals, as there is a never-ending supply of willpower when we are doing what aligns with our innermost core.

Use Positive Framing

Resolving that you won't have any alcohol keeps the focus on the alcohol. Instead of focusing on what you don't want to do, focus on the positive aspect, like drinking more water.

Use gratitude and other positive emotions to steer your mind out of any pitfalls.

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Read 1 book per week

Ordinary people seek entertainment. Extraordinary people seek education and learning.

Taking even 15–30 minutes every day (especially during the morning) to read uplifting and instruct...

Do something that terrifies you

But you don’t have to constantly be battling your fears. You only need to be courageous for 20 seconds at a time.

If you courageously confront fear for 20 seconds every single day, before you know it, you’ll be in a different socio-economic and social situation.

“A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.”

“A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.”

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5 hours of sleep is enough

Habitual sleep deprivation is associated with diverse and far-reaching health effects and none of them is good.

Between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night are recommended. You can get used to l...

Watching Television before bed

Cellphones, tablets, and all kinds of personal electronics are not a good idea when you’re getting ready for bed.

Researchers have increasingly focused on “blue light” emitted by screens and its effect on sleep and negative sleep-related health outcomes.

It doesn’t matter when you sleep

Our bodies tend to follow a natural rhythm of wakefulness and sleep that is attuned to sunrise and sunset for a reason.

While some missed sleep here and there isn’t necessarily a big deal, shifting your sleep schedule long term isn’t healthy.

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“Everything in moderation” is risky advice

Because the word “moderation” is vague and that makes it a friendly, big-tent kind of concept: however much you eat, you can find a way of convincing yourself that you eat in moderation.

Moderation should be a tool...

...for sticking to healthy diets easier. 

Nutritionists mean by moderation small portions, especially when talking about food that we should not eat. This means that eating a little bit of bad food doesn't have to ruin your diet or make you feel guilty and give up.

Big companies and “moderation”

Junk food companies love the concept of “moderation”.

Some of them (e.g. the Sugar Association, Snack Food, and Grocery Manufacturers Associations, with members as Coca-Cola and Hershey), adopted the motto: “All foods fit in a balanced diet", to give the illusion that your diet is not unhealthy if it includes their foods.

Not all goals are created equal:
  • Merely fantasizing about your goal is de-motivating – it actually tricks the brain into thinking you already have achieved it.
  • Goals that aren’t set up properly can end ...
Setting and Achieving Your Goals
  • Step #1: Take Your Emotional Temperature, around the most important areas of your life.
  • Step #2: The Neurology of Ownership: When we take ownership of something–an item, an idea or a goal–we are more committed to it.
  • Step #3: Outcome + Process: Most people set an intention or an ideal outcome and try working toward it, but that gets you only halfway there. You have to pick an outcome and a process.
  • Step #4: Identify Blockers: When we first set our goals we are super optimistic and filled with hope–and that’s great. One thing that happens, however, is we fail to identify possible blockers.
#1. Find Your Emotional Temperature

Rate these areas of your life on a scale from 1 to 5 and plot it on your Goal Wheel. (1 being extremely dissatisfied, 5 being extremely satisfied)

  • Business: How do you feel about your work, career or business effectiveness and success?
  • Friends: How is your social life? Your friendships and support system?
  • Family: How are your personal relationships? Your partner or spouse?
  • Personal Passions: Do you have personal passion projects, hobbies, or fun activities that fulfil you?
  • Spiritual: You can interpret this one any way you like. It could be your faith, mental health, personal journeys or mindset.
  • Health: Are you happy with your physical health and wellness?

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