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The Science Behind Creating Healthy, Lifelong Habits

Your simple daily habits impact your health and how you age. Adopting a healthy lifestyle is something we all aspire to; however, it can be a challenge to achieve. Try as we might, making our healthy habits permanent often remains an elusive goal.

If this sounds like you, you’re not alone.

A study out of England that looked at habit formation shows that adoption is highly varied from person to person. For some it can take two to three weeks to form a new habit, while for others it can be much longer. This study also concluded that successful lasting habits need:

  • ongoing support,
  • personalized health advice,
  • accountability and
  • a routine (particularly a morning routine).

So, feel encouraged! Just because you haven’t had success in the past, you can build long-lasting, healthy habits once you have the right strategies.

It’s worth the effort too, as healthy habits positively reinforce themselves. Researchers who study the effect of a daily routine on our brain function and overall mental well-being, find that a healthy routine regulates our circadian rhythm to provide us with optimal sleep patterns. When it comes to weight loss, those who are successful at maintaining healthy eating habits often eat the same foods, engage in consistent exercise, and do not skip meals.

Set yourself up for Success

When creating a routine, focusing on the first part of the day has been proven to help reduce stress and increase productivity. A routine typically includes patterns around sleeping, eating, exercising, hobbies, socializing, chores, and other daily, weekly, or monthly tasks.

If you’re someone who struggles to get out of bed in the morning, adjusting your habits may not be easy, but will yield wonderful mental health benefits when you succeed. A morning routine provides you the opportunity to:

  • Create consistency and set the stage for the day
  • Calm your body and mind, leaving you more energized and excited for the day
  • Reduce decision fatigue and saves energy for mental tasks throughout the day
  • Trigger or cue additional healthy habits, increasing their longevity
  • Improve self-confidence, fill your emotional tank, and move out into the world with the internal resources to draw upon in order to “own” your day.

6 morning habits to start your day

The key is to build simple practices that become part of your daily routine. Here are some healthy habits that will set you on the right foot, when you get out of bed each morning:

  1. Meditation – Quiet the mind and calm the nervous system by listening to calming music or practicing a guided meditation. Start with 5 minutes and build up to 15 or 20 every morning.
  2. Journal– Write down your feelings and thoughts, as well as what you are grateful for. This process helps you release stress, worry or discomfort. It’s also an opportunity to plan and strategize for the day and weeks ahead.
  3. Exercise Begin with light stretching, yoga or a walk outside. If you already exercise regularly, keep building, and be sure to include both cardio and strength.
  4. Breathe – Think about breathing in positive energy and breathing out tension and stress. Take a deep breath in, hold your breath for 4 – 6 counts and breathe out slowly; repeat 4 – 6 times. Consider doing this outside while connecting with nature.
  5. Hot and cold shower – Cold showers can help reduce inflammation, relieve pain, improve circulation, lower stress levels, and reduce muscle soreness and fatigue. Hot showers, meanwhile, can improve cardiovascular health, soothe stiff joints, and improve sleep. This is a type of hormesis which is stressing our bodies in a good way. Step into a hot shower and then slowly turn the temperature down, standing under cold water for 30 seconds and building up to 2- 3 minutes.
  6. MindsetAdults have approximately 80,000 thoughts every day. Our thoughts can benefit us (positive mindset) or work against us (negative mindset). Becoming aware of our thoughts helps us take charge of our internal dialog. With a positive mindset, we can direct our thoughts to be calm and move through our day with increased ease. We want to feel energized, healthy, and positive and this intentionality can change our reality!

Start Today!

If creating a healthy routine and prioritizing new habits feels overwhelming, start with these steps:

  1. Seek out health advice that’s tailored to your unique health goals. What works for someone else may not be what you need. Find experts who will help you prioritize and determine which habits will be most beneficial to your health.
  2. Build on one new habit at a time and do each consistently for two to three weeks, then consider adding the next new habit. If you try to do too much simultaneously, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment.
  3. Plan. This can include setting your alarm 20 minutes earlier, meal preparation, pre-scheduling exercise classes for the week or looking at a menu prior to arriving at a restaurant.
  4. Find ongoing support and accountability. This could be a friend, family, an app, a coach, or your healthcare provider.
  5. Be patient with yourself and persevere. It may take you weeks or months to form your new habit(s), but you can do it.
  6. Allow yourself some grace and room for flexibility following an unstructured day or a week of vacation; be prepared to get back on track.

At Harrison, we’re here to provide the advice you need, plus long-term support and enough time with your clinical team to help you create lasting change. With more success over the long-term, the more you will be able to add in new healthy habits. Bring us your goals, and we’ll help you achieve them!


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