A better question may be, why is it so hard to change? The idea of forming better habits or changing our mindset seems daunting. Even when we know that the change would be beneficial, it's tough. I've read that it takes anywhere from 21 days to 254 days to have a changed behavior stick. Really? That's quite a significant difference in time. I'm not sure I can avoid cookies for a whole year. Just thinking about it makes me want to have a cookie right now. That's the rub. The more we tell ourselves that we need a better diet or be more motivated, the more we eat junk and procrastinate.
Why does it feel that we are continually sabotaging ourselves? I know I feel better when I'm exercising regularly and eating healthy meals. It shouldn't be so challenging to stay on track, and yet it is. Stress, anxiety, and fear seem to go away with a yummy plate of chocolate chip cookies. Of course, then I'm left with feelings of guilt and disappointment with myself. I know there are worse things than splurging on dessert. It's a lack of self-control that makes me mad. I find myself in a silly argument justifying that it's not a big deal and vowing never to have a sugary treat ever again. I believe it's that all or nothing approach that will keep me in this vicious cycle.
I have found through research that we can develop and adopt good habits. The time frame for it to happen doesn't matter. We just need to learn a few valuable tools to help us. Understanding ourselves and recognizing behavior patterns will give us clues on how to stay with a new program or thought process.
Developing new habits means recognizing that we are ready for a positive change. Let's start by writing down our goals. Make a list of the pros and cons of changing or not changing our actions. When we can look at what we want for ourselves, a clearer picture emerges. It's a way to get out of our heads and stop the useless chatter. We can face a new challenge head-on when we have it in front of us. Staying present will help us make the right decisions instead of impulsively making the wrong ones. When we take a moment to breathe and relax, we allow ourselves to choose grapes instead of a piece of cake. (I want cake now).
We can then develop a plan of action. Take small, incremental steps to build a new habit gradually. Trying to overhaul our life in one sitting is setting ourselves up for failure. For example, make a meal plan for the week. The decision for what to eat is not a question now. If you want to exercise more and don't know where to start, check out the hundreds of free work out programs on Youtube. Schedule one a day for the week and check it off your list. Missing a day is not a big deal. Don't let it deter you from finishing out the rest of the week.
We will make mistakes, and we will not be perfect. That's how we continue to learn and grow. It's not giving up or deciding we can't change. Of course, significant life changes are confusing and scary. It's not easy leaving what we know for the unknown, even if the unknown may be way better. Enlisting the help of family, friends, or seeking therapy is not a sign of weakness but a show of strength. Support and encouragement go hand in hand when it comes to making a worthwhile change.
Letting the people around us know we are taking on the challenge of a new habit will help keep us motivated to stay on course. We can keep them apprised of how well we are doing or that we may need a pep talk. Setting up rewards for ourselves can make the whole process feel like a fun game. It's all about our attitude and how we phrase our challenges. We can say, "Oh great, I have to work out for an hour, and I don't feel like it." Or we can say, "I can't wait to test my strength and endurance today. I know I'm getting stronger."
We are more adaptable than we give ourselves credit. Remember that every day is an opportunity for us to work towards our goals. Start the morning with a smile, and know that we will have a great day. We are ready, willing, and able to meet the challenges we set out for ourselves. Remember to ask for help when we need it and be there to help others. Change happens gradually. New habits and new behaviors take time. Which reminds me, I found a great recipe for banana, blueberry muffins. No sugar but will satisfy my sweet tooth. I'm not sure the cookie industry will survive without me, but I'm willing to take the chance.