The following blog is brought to you by Sam Pashley, co-founder and head coach of REAL Online Training and Nutrition. Sam has been in the fitness industry for over a decade and set up REAL in 2019 with a view to help everyday people achieve their fitness goals. WorkLife have teamed up with REAL to give you and your employees tangible advice and guidance to help you achieve your wellbeing goals in 2021 – if this is something you’d like to see more of throughout the year, let us know!
Do you want to build life-long behaviours that will improve your health and happiness? Of course you do! Forward progress is a big part of what makes and keeps us humans happy.
In this blog, we’re going to give you some clear strategies on how you can ease the process of inputting healthy habits into your lifestyle.
How do habits form?
Habits have a pretty clear operating system that looks like this:
1. We get a cue - This is something that reminds us to perform a certain behaviour. For example, when we go to the cinema, we see and smell popcorn. Which, without a doubt, will make us want popcorn.
2. We then act out the behaviour - We buy the popcorn. Woop. Popcorn.
3. We get a reward - We eat the popcorn and soak up the experience of the cinema in general. Fun times! This reward strengthens the behaviour and makes it more likely we’ll choose to act it out again.
Repeat those steps enough times, and bam. You’ll have a habit on your hands.
This loop helps to build automatic and habitual behaviours that we don’t have to think about, but just happen all in the name of making our lives easier. Think about typing on a keyboard for example, if you had to remember how to tap every individual key each time, it would take us much longer to act out. But it doesn’t -we can perform this action without thinking.
With this theory in mind, let’s start small and look at how we can use this habit loop to help us make healthier choices when it comes to eating. To start with, let’s focus on just eating an apple.
How can we form healthier habits?
1. Initially, there is the cue.
A few key rules for cues is that they need to stand out, be attractive (they need to make you want to follow through with the behaviour!) and ultimately, make the behaviour easier to perform.
Examples of how to do this:
- Make cues really obvious. Buy your favourite kind of apples. Put them everywhere and make sure they’re in your eyeline.
- Don’t try and eat 100 apples (this is unrealistic, unnecessary, and let’s face it, who wants to eat a hundred apples). Start small with one per day. Ask yourself; what time do I want to eat the apple? What am I normally doing at this time? Stick an apple there to remind you.
2. Having noticed the various cues, hopefully you’ll have completed step 2 by acting out the behaviour and eating the apple - super job!
3. Lastly, the reward.
This is incredibly important as it confirms the behaviour as something rewarding that we should do again to receive that reward. The idea here is to make it immediately satisfying.
Examples of how to do this:
- Find a group of friends or colleagues that you can share your experiences with, nothing will boost your motivation like group support.
- Make sure you only eat the most delicious apples – there’s little more satisfying than a tasty treat.
- Hire a coach to track your apple eating consistency and to give you regular performance-based high fives.
So there you go, a 3 step process to improving your behaviours. Because it’s not enough to simply acknowledge what you want to do when it comes to improving, it’s about making the process easier and therefore more likely to occur.
I’m sure you’ll realise this isn’t just about apples, you can switch out our example behaviour for a more specific one that's in line with your goals (do you want to get more steps in this year? Eat your five-a-day? Train yourself to be able to do a push up? Apply your goal to the habit loop and see how much easier it can become!).
Regardless of your goals, the theory stays the same. Following the above steps and building habitual behaviours that become part of your life will help you achieve the ultimate goal of sustaining positive habits to make you the best version of yourself.
This blog was by REAL Online Training and Nutrition. To hear more about how WorkLife can help you in your wellbeing goals in 2021, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.