Creating Healthy Habits That Last

The key to long-lasting lifestyle changes in four steps

(RxWiki News) Making changes in your lifestyle can feel overwhelming, but healthy change doesn't have to be difficult.

Here's what you need to know about making changes that you want for yourself and your life — for good this time.

1) Focus on One Change at a Time

You may want to make multiple changes, but because of the way your brain works, this approach can backfire. It takes time to form a new healthy habit. To make sure you form a new healthy habit that will last for the long term, focus on one change at a time and continue to work at that one habit.

Will you work toward eating more vegetables, reducing sugar, drinking more water or reducing carbohydrates? Start by picking one thing you want to focus on.

Although it may seem like a great idea to work on all of these healthy eating behaviors at once, trying to make change in too many ways at the same time can be overwhelming and cause you to quit altogether.

2) Emphasize Small Changes and Make Your New Habit as Small as Possible

Even if you pick just one goal, you might go wrong by picking one that's too big. Try to pick a health goal that is small and achievable but will result in a positive change.

If you want to eat a healthier diet, you can get there without changing everything about the way you eat. Rather than making a broad goal to eat a healthier diet, try being very specific and focused. For instance, if you are working toward cutting back on sugary drinks, could you try to reduce your intake by one sugary drink per day instead of trying to cut out all sugary drinks altogether?

And if you are looking to be more active this year, you shouldn't go from no activity to hour-long workout sessions every day. Instead, try taking the stairs instead of the elevator. You may want to follow that with one workout per week. You can even start with five minutes of activity and work your way up to 30 minutes. With your doctor's approval, you can build your exercise regimen slowly but surely.

3) Try Adding Something Rather Than Taking Something Away

Let's stick with our sugary drink example above. A lot of people have trouble with depriving themselves of something they enjoy, such as soda. So, if you want to drink less soda, how are you supposed to get past the mental block you experience when you think of actually achieving that goal?

Try adding something that will replace the soda you're going to stop drinking. For example, instead of saying, "I will drink less soda," try saying, "I will replace my daily soda with a sugar-free sparkling water."

Adding something instead of taking something away can make it easier to stick with without feeling too deprived.

4) Don't Be Too Hard on Yourself

Remember that it's OK if things don't go as planned. Hitting a setback does not mean you should give up. It simply means you need to try again. And when things don't go as planned, don't think of it as a failure. Think of it as information you now have about what doesn't work for you. The more information you have, the easier it is to find what does work for you.

Always check with your health care provider before making any major changes to your diet or exercise routine.