HEALTHY LIVING

7 tips to make healthy habits stick

It's not easy to kick a bad habit like smoking or eating too much sugar. But it can also be a struggle to incorporate healthy habits like exercise and meditation into our daily lives.  Dr. Manny talks with Gretchen Rubin, author of "Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives," to find out how to make habits stick

 

Most of us would like to improve our health habits— but it’s tough. Two of the most popular and most challenging areas of habit change are eating more healthfully and exercising regularly.

To change our habits, it's crucial that we know ourselves, so that we can make changes in a way that will suit us. Want to know yourself better? Take this quiz to find out if you're an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel.

If you’re trying to change your eating habits, consider these particular habit strategies:
1. Clean Slate
A new situation makes it much easier to change habits. If you move to a new city, change jobs or schools, or have a new routine, take advantage of the clean slate. New job? Start taking your lunch to work.

2. Abstaining
For some people— but not everyone— moderation is too tough; it's easier to give up something altogether. For Abstainers, it's far easier to eat no brownies than one brownie. (Want to take a quiz, to see if you're an Abstainer or a Moderator? Look here.)  

3. Convenience and Inconvenience
Make it easy to eat right and hard to eat wrong. Keep healthy snacks in your desk so you don't use the vending machine. Store the crackers on a high shelf.

4. Monitoring
Keep track of what you eat: how many cups of cereal, how many slices of pizza. Don't eat out of a container. Decide how much you want to eat, and put it on your plate— and no seconds.

5. Safeguards
Plan to fail; anticipate temptation and decide in advance how to handle it. What will you eat at the birthday party? On vacation? If Aunt Bertha serves her famous mac and cheese?

6. Pairing
Only eat X when you're doing Y. Only eat when sitting at a table. Only eat a croissant after you finish an exam.

7. Loophole-Spotting
We use loopholes to justify breaking a good habit. Watch out for these popular loopholes:
• Tomorrow loophole-"It doesn't matter what I eat today, because I'll eat great tomorrow."
• Fake-Self Actualization loophole-"You only live once. I can't pass this up!"
• Lack of Control loophole-"Someone brought cupcakes to the meeting."
• One-Coin loophole-"What difference does one trip to the gym make?

If you’re trying to exercise more, try one of these habit-changing strategies:
1. Accountability
For many people, the key to sticking to an exercise plan is to create external accountability. Sign up for a class where the teacher will really notice if you skip. Plan hikes with a friend who'll be annoyed if you don't show up.

2. Safeguards
Anticipate temptation and decide in advance how to handle challenging circumstances. How will you exercise when you're traveling for work? When your kids have school vacation? If the weather turns bad?

3. Convenience
Rent a gym locker so you can store your gear in a handy place. Pay a little extra to go to the spin class that's nearer to your house. No time to shower? Exercise in ways that don't make you sweat.

4. Clean Slate
A new situation makes it much easier to change habits. If you move to a new city, change jobs or schools, or have a new routine, take advantage of the clean slate. New job? Start going to the gym during your lunch hour.

5. Monitoring
Keep track of how much you exercise (we tend dramatically to over-estimate how much exercise we get in a day). Wear a pedometer. Keep track of how many exercise classes or bike rides you take.

6. Pairing
Watch Game of Thrones only while you're on the treadmill. Listen to podcasts only when you're going for your morning walk.

7. Loophole-Spotting
We use loopholes to justify breaking a good habit. Watch out for these popular loopholes:

  • Tomorrow loophole-"It doesn't matter what I do today, because tomorrow, I'm going to start training hard."
  • Moral Licensing loophole-"I've been so good about going to class, it's okay for me to take a break."
  • Lack of Control loophole-"It's raining, I can't go for a run."
  • One-Coin-"What difference does one visit to the gym make?"

It turns out that it's not that hard to change your habits— when you know what to do.

Gretchen Rubin is the author of several books, including the blockbuster New York Times bestseller, "The Happiness Project" and the newly released Better Than Before. She has an enormous readership, both in print and online, and her books have sold more than two million copies worldwide, in more than thirty languages. Rubin started her career in law and was clerking for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor when she realized she wanted to be a writer.