How to have healthy habits that last over time?

¿Cómo tener hábitos saludables que perduren en el tiempo?

Do you die of envy seeing people who are able to go to the gym every day? Don't know how to stop drinking soda with every meal? Would you like to have the discipline and determination to use your cell phone less and read for a while every day?

Don't be so hard, you're not the only one asking those questions. You are not alone.

We are going to tell you how you can start having healthy habits that last over time.

Why do we have certain habits?

According to the Royal Spanish Academy of Language, a habit is a specific way of behavior that occurs through the repetition over time of similar acts. That is, they are behaviors repeated regularly: bathing, brushing your teeth, always having breakfast at the same time. They are automatic actions that do not require conscious effort. According to the book Atomic Habits by James Clear, 40% of our daily actions are habits that we perform automatically.

The way you behave depends, to a large extent, on the experiences you have had throughout life and what you have learned from them. For example, if when you were a child you associated sweets with happiness, it is normal that now when you are sad you want to eat a brownie with ice cream to feel better.

Just as you learned to develop these behaviors to face reality, you can also learn other healthier ways to manage everything that happens to you on a daily basis. Because habits can be learned.

How do you have new habits?

If you want to start including new habits in your life, you first have to understand how they are incorporated into your life.

Turning an action into a habit is based on three main components according to the theory developed by Charles Duhigg in his book The power of habit.

  • Signal: it is the stimulus that initiates the habitual action, it is what tells your brain that it is time to execute the action. It can be an event, an emotion or any other factor that activates the habit.
  • Reward: It is the positive result you feel after completing the action. It's what motivates your brain to repeat the action in the future. This reward can be physical, emotional or mental and varies depending on the habit and the person.
  • Repetition: is the key to consolidating a habit. The more times you repeat an action in response to the cue and receive the reward, the more ingrained the habit will become in your daily routine. Over time, the habit will become automatic and require less conscious effort to execute.

Tips for having healthy habits

If you want to start incorporating new habits into your life and you don't know where to start, we give you some recommendations:

  • Identify your current habits: recognize what actions you constantly perform and analyze how they bring you closer or further away from having a balanced, healthy life full of well-being.
  • Set clear objectives: when you are clear about the habits that you want to permanently eliminate from your life and which ones you want to start including, start by setting realistic goals that you can achieve in the short term.
  • Start with small actions: you don't run a full marathon without having run a half. Even if you have many ambitions and desire to change, habits begin with small actions that gradually lead you to meet your goals.
  • Cultivate persistence and patience : for a habit to become automatic, a lot of time has to pass. So don't despair when things don't go as you expected. Being constant, even in the moments when motivation seems to have gone on vacation, is the key.
  • Create an enabling environment: Identify and remove barriers to adopting healthy habits and create an environment that encourages long-term success and well-being. If you always feel tempted to have a sweet after lunch, then don't buy chocolates in the market. And if you find it difficult to get up in the morning to exercise, leave the clothes ready the night before and the water in the thermos, so that the effort you make when the alarm goes off is minimal.
  • Save for the future: think that the habits you are looking to implement today are the ground that you are going to leave fertile ground for your future self. Do it for your version of the next few years.
  • Seek support and create community: Seek support from friends, family or people with whom you share similar goals, so you will find inspiration, motivation and emotional support when you are going through moments of doubt or despair.

In what areas can you have new habits?

If you are looking to have a healthier life, these are the 4 topics in which you should start implementing new habits:

  • Food: eating vegetables every day, hopefully in the 3 most important meals, can be a new habit.
  • Physical activity: if you don't even move to take control of the television, you can start by going around the block every day and to the extent that your body shows you that it can do more, you can push yourself harder and walk a distance. longer distance.
  • Sleep: if you want to start falling asleep earlier, establish a time in which you can be in bed at 10:00 pm, what you couldn't do by that time, is already left for the next day.
  • Stress management: Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation or deep breathing. Start with 5 minutes and as you master the technique you can increase the time.

Nobody changes their life overnight. True transformations require time, patience and discipline.

Do you want to work for your future self? Start making a list of those habits you want for your new version. Starting today is better than never doing it.

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