Developing a Healthy Habit

(Dr. Clayton Lawrence, founder and CEO, shares his thoughts in a weekly column focused on community wellness and inspiring others.)

Did you ever wonder why it seems so easy to develop unhealthy habits and so difficult to establish healthy ones? Part of it may be due to a lack of willpower, but a great deal has to do with simply understanding a few measures that can be taken to turn a healthy habit into something that comes natural.

With a few easy steps, such as the ones below, the development of a healthy habit can add quality to your life, increase confidence, and set an example for those around you.

Start with a goal.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but we often fail at establishing healthy habits because we don’t truly have something we’re working toward. If weight loss is something you would like to achieve, it’s important to consider the ways to make that happen. Commit to healthy eating, regular exercise, plenty of water and ample sleep with your goal in mind in all you do and the habits will come naturally. If acing the next test is something you’d like to achieve, establish a study schedule that works best for you. After a few weeks (and after acing that test) the routine you have developed will be second nature.

Start small, with a big picture in mind.

As with any goal, success doesn’t happen overnight. It takes small steps, dedication and commitment. This is the key to turning your everyday choices and decisions into healthy habits. When we think too big, though, we’re setting ourselves up to fail. This weakens our confidence in ourselves and causes us to give up. We quickly go back to unhealthy habits and with each passing day, all of those healthy decisions go by the wayside.

Recognize that habits are personal. 

We’re all unique. There’s no doubt about that. And with our varying personalities, attributes, strengths and weaknesses comes a need to recognize how we, as individuals, process life’s challenges. Your friend may have easily established a schedule that works for her newborn baby, but you seem to find it more difficult to develop a routine that works for everyone. You may have found it easy to give up soda, while your partner simply cannot stop thinking about that refreshing drink throughout the day. The same goes for giving up smoking and eating out, and adding fruits and vegetables to your daily meal plan. It is important to not be too critical. Recognize that we all have differences. Celebrate others’ successes and seek out ways that you, too, can reach your goals.

Identify unhealthy setbacks.

There are things that we all do that may be holding us back. Whether it’s not starting the day with a healthy breakfast, turning to a sugary treat during that 2 p.m. crash, staying up too late to binge watch a favorite show or using caffeine to get through that morning meeting. When we take a look at our everyday routines, we begin to see how some of those decisions may affect our ability to establish healthy habits. Too little sleep could mean a terrible start to the next morning and blowing that promise to sit down for a protein-packed breakfast. It may be a slow process, but, eventually, eliminating those unhealthy habits could be exactly the breakthrough you need to meet your goals and establish life-long healthy habits.