Top 5 ways to implement new movement habits:
As we come to the end of another year and look ahead to what 2023 has to offer, of course we tend to both reflect on the past and plan for the future. Rather than setting New Year’s resolutions, I find setting micro goals can be more realistic and achievable. And really any time of year is the right time to set these micro goals! But of course this is a natural time to think about it. In an effort to help you be successful in whatever movement habits you may want to continue or create, here are 5 ways to help you implement these new routines:
- Start small
Trying to make too many changes at once can be overwhelming! So, it is important to start with a small, achievable goal. If you want to start walking daily, try to start with 5 minutes a day and work up from there. Or if you want to start a morning mobility routine, pick 3 exercises to start with and see how that feels. In addition, think about not adding a new movement habit AND other things at the same time. Although it can feel good to do a wellness overhaul- and I’m definitely guilty of trying to do ALL the things at once- this can set yourself up for failure. We know that movement, nutrition, hydration, sleep and mindfulness all impact our well being and, in an ideal world, we would maximize each one of these. But in a realistic world, if you’re going to implement a movement habit, perhaps try JUST that. Once you’re in a rhythm, then maybe try to add a complementary goal- daily hydration, nutrition changes, sleep parameters, etc.
- Consider habit stacking
The easiest way to implement a new habit is to pair it with an existing one. It takes some of the decision fatigue away as you try to figure out where this new movement habit fits into your day. For example, if you are already regularly brushing your teeth every morning, perhaps you do your balance exercises right afterward. Or if you already check the mail at a certain time of day, that can also be the time you get your daily walk in. Having one habit in place allows that habit to trigger your memory of “oh right, now I also do this!” rather than having to create space for the new habit out of thin air. One of my personal habit stacks is making a statement of gratitude each morning when I fill up my water bottle.
- Track your progress
Seeing the progress you’ve made is a big motivator, so tracking it is important. This could be as simple as crossing off each day on a calendar or checking it off a list. We have so many self care habits that we partake in daily and that many of us would never miss- we brush our teeth for dental health, we wash our face, we put on lotion to hydrate our skin. Yet somehow thinking of a daily movement habit feels daunting and like we don’t have time. I think a major barrier for many of us, including myself, is that we often don’t immediately feel the benefits. Brushing your teeth is super rewarding- you immediately feel more awake and refreshed! But sometimes you don’t see the benefit of a daily exercise practice until many years later when you realize the problems you have prevented. Tracking progress on a smaller scale is really important so that we don’t lose sight of the why behind our new movement habits.
- When you slip, get back on track quickly
I have been working with a health coach who always says “don’t let one bad day become two.” It can be easy to end up in the all-or-nothing mindset where you think “well, if I missed today I might as well just skip the rest of the week and restart on Monday.” But the longer the gap in the habit, the less likely you are to ever resume. This is why it is essential to make small changes so that you DO find success early. And when things come up that prevent you from sticking to it, which will happen because life is life, it is important for you to right the ship and get back to your routine the next day.
- Celebrate your successes!
Make sure you take time to acknowledge the small victories along the way. Pause for a moment and give yourself kudos for your hard work and for the progress you’ve made so far. Habits take time to cement themselves and it takes an immense amount of patience to stick with them initially- before they are second nature, and before you start seeing big leaps of change. Acknowledging the baby steps helps keep you motivated and focused on the larger goal that you are working toward.