You’ll have heard the phrase – the one about how the longest journey starts with a single step. Chances are you already know that getting fit and eating healthy might just be the best decisions you’ll ever make – that you’ll likely live longer and feel a whole lot better. But getting there can be daunting. Maybe you’ve tried a couple of times, only to find those bad old habits lure you back to the couch.
Science, science, science
The evidence is piling up though. Change can be easier than you think. And the scientists are convinced that a lot of it comes down to habits – good and bad. If getting fit and healthy looks like a long way off, don’t give up. Break a bad habit and make a good one and you’ll be impressed how much of that long road you start eating up.
So, what is it about habits?
Your brain likes to conserve its energy – it likes to burn lean. Finding your way around the world takes up a lot of brain power – most of it going on under the radar. And to conserve energy, whenever it can, it’ll run on autopilot. Which is why the brain likes habits – they’re its cruise control.
The tricky bit
There’s no point flannelling. If you want to get healthier, at some point you’ve got to take the plunge. If you’re in terrible shape it’s probably because you’ve got into a bunch of bad habits – and your brain wants to keep you there. But when you’re ready to go for it – when the pain of not doing it is worse than the pain of doing it – you can harness the power of habit to help.
Take it easy on yourself
If starting is the hard bit, then you need to make it as easy as you can. And there’s an avalanche of data saying that means you need to run on automatic. Don’t get up in the morning thinking how shall I exercise today? Get up knowing exactly when, where and for how long you’re going to do it. Don’t wait until you feel like exercising: set yourself a schedule. You’re aiming for the sweet spot: exercise is so much a part of your day you don’t have to think about whether you’re in the mood.
Three tips to get you going
Lay out your gear
If you’ve set your alarm clock for some early exercise, pack your bag – or set out your stuff – the night before. It’s much easier just grabbing and going. Faff around and there’s a chance you’ll never get out the door.
It’s always easier to keep going once you’ve started. The first leg is always the toughest. So just get going.
The best way to forge a habit is to build in some reward. If ritual gets you out of bed, then the reward cements it – after the pain comes the pleasure.