A Secret to Creating New Healthy Habits.

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Happy Memorial Day Weekend! This weekend, we take pause to honor and remember all those who lost their lives serving and protecting our great country.

John F. Kennedy, in honor of Memorial Day, once said “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter the words but to live by them.”

This motto can be applied to how we live in a way that expresses gratitude for our lives and appreciation for our mind, body and spirit.

For behavior change to be impactful and lasting, research shows that we must connect our desired behavior to the values we have for our lives. Our focus needs to be on what we are moving towards as opposed to what we are trying to give-up.

First, ask yourself: What am I working towards? What are the values that I hold closest to my heart?

An example may look like this: “I recognize the fleeting nature of life. I will be present in my life and purposeful in my decisions. I will eat, exercise and drink alcohol in a way that allows me to radiate health and vibrancy for myself, my family, my friends and those I serve.”

Next, create intermediate behavior goals that are relevant to your overarching vision. Behavior goals represent how we can take control by focusing on the process as opposed to the outcome which we may not be able to control. What measurable goals do you want to work towards to help you keep a pulse on your progress?

An example connecting to the above may look something like this:

  1. I will consistently eat 7 servings of vegetables per day.
  2. I will engage in strength training exercises 3 times per week for 20 to 30 minutes each time.
  3. I will keep my alcohol consumption to a maximum of 2 drinks and evening no more than 3 times per week.
  4. I will meditate daily for 10 to 20 minutes.

Now look for bite size weekly goals that can be anchored to an existing habit that can connect directly to your intermediate goal achievement. This might look something like this:

  1. After work (the anchor) on Thursday I will stop at the farmers market to buy fresh vegetables for the upcoming weekend (desired new habit of buying more veggies)
  2. After walking my dog in the morning (anchor), I will alternate between doing 10 sit-ups or 10 push-ups (tiny desired new habit that supports the intermediate goal above).
  3. After I brush my teeth in the evening before bed (anchor), I will record the number of alcoholic drinks I had that day.
  4. After I have my lunch (anchor), I will pause, close my eyes and take 5 focused breaths.

You too can truly thrive by creating a lighthouse of the values and vision you have for your life, determining behaviors that will help you get there and intentionally taking tiny steps that are anchored to existing habits. Have a joyful holiday weekend.

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