Learning how to build healthy habits is not always easy. In fact, adapting to any new habit can be difficult in itself.
Building healthy habits is important to living a healthy lifestyle. I truly believe that developing good sleep habits, eating habits, and exercise habits will lead to a more energized life. If you treat your mind and body right, they will treat you well back.
In my experience, I’ve realized that healthy habits aren’t formed overnight. However, you can make the decision to start building healthy habits overnight. See the difference? You have to want to make changes to truly start without turning back. Once you open your mindset to change, you’ve already overcome the toughest barrier! After that, it’s about staying consistent. The best way to develop healthy habits is to decide to make a change, then slowly start implementing small changes in your everyday lifestyle. These changes will be insignificant at first, but will compound to make major lifestyle changes!
I’m excited to share how I’ve formed some healthy habits on Big Sister Blog. Over the years, I’ve learned lots of fitness and health tips I’d love to share with you. I would love to share more advice in the future on this topic, so definitely stay tuned for that!
Say Goodbye to Your Old Habits
I’m going to elaborate on the lifestyle habits that I was accustomed to for the past three years. It wasn’t until about 5 months ago that things really started to change for me. I started to recognize that my old habits were not consistent and would not improve my lifestyle. I wanted to see change, and the biggest part of that was realizing that my old habits needed to be re-evaluated.
Exercise is an important part of living a healthy lifestyle. It doesn’t matter what exercise you do, just that you’re getting your heart rate up and moving your body. It could be a walk, swimming, jogging, weights, sports, or anything you want it to be!
Personally, my workout was going to the gym when I felt up to it – maybe 3-5 times a week. I would go at 6am one day, 12pm the next day, then 10pm the day after. It was never a routine. It would rarely take priority in my day. Truthfully, if I were “too tired” or “too busy” I would simply push the workout off to the next day.
Eating Habits & Nutrition
Eating food is very important! Do not get me wrong here, I think that food is our fuel, and we need it to feel energized for the day. However, eating healthy is also important. Cleaner foods often help us feel better throughout the day. I used to eat only somewhat healthy. Without feeding myself foods with proper nutrition, I wouldn’t feel energized. After a long day of classes and homework, I’d often feel too exhausted to do my workout. I needed to eat foods with the proper nutrition to fuel me throughout the day.
Sleeping is so important! In the past, I would deprioritize my sleep schedule to stay up late and work (or sometimes just to relax and hang out). I would go to bed between 12am-2am, and force myself out of bed at 6am – only to crash in a long recovery nap later that day. These habits were not sustainable and did not improve my physical or mental health. I would end up rubbing my eyes in class, struggling to focus on my work, and failing to get my workout done.
That’s when I realized that building healthy habits was about making overall changes in each area of my life. I knew that I would need to slowly make changes and stick with them to see results. For me, the goal was to live healthier and feel more energized in my life.
The First Step to Build Healthy Habits
In my experience, starting is the hardest part. But where exactly do we start? How do we start and ensure we won’t stop or give up?
The best advice on how to start is to take small steps. If you run a marathon tomorrow (without proper training), you will see little to no results. Not to mention, your body would be exhausted and your muscles would ache for days. This discomfort will lead most people to give up. That’s the problem! You have to start small. If you start by jogging just 1 mile a day, then slowly work your way up as you grow stronger, you will see better long-term results.
The Compound Effect
The compound effect is based on the principle that small, seemingly insignificant actions will lead to huge rewards. However, it also goes the other way. If you choose to make poor decisions over time, you could blindly lead your life to disaster. This principle is well explained by Darren Hardy in his New York Times bestselling book, The Compound Effect (2010).
I believe strongly in the compound effect, especially when understanding how to build healthy habits. In my experience, when I would go to the gym or go for a run, I would try my best to go as hard as possible. However, this made me very sore and tired at first. Leaving the gym feeling exhausted would not associate positive feelings with working out. The next day, I would feel too sore to go back, and would prioritize anything else in my day over working out. This was the wrong approach when I was first starting!
The best way to see results is to build good habits over time. Over the past 3 months, I have significantly improved my strength, speed, and stamina. Not to mention, I’ve officially formed a routine. I’m able to get up around 5am on 6 days of the week (+1 rest day); start each of those days with a weight-lifting workout; and eat healthier foods on a daily basis. I hydrate as much as possible and sleep 7-8 hours each night. I think these habits have even helped eliminate most of my acne issues!
However, this did not come overnight! My life has improved because of those small changes I made on an everyday basis. Making small changes over time led to huge results in the long-term. That’s the compound effect in action! I was making changes that were seemingly insignificant, so much so that I was able to easily stick with them for the past 5 months straight.
So, how can you build healthy habits and improve your lifestyle? The best answer is by starting as soon as possible. Make the decision now to just start. Start by making one small change after another. Make sure those changes are not too hard on your lifestyle, or else you will most likely end up quitting – I definitely did in the past. Forcing too much on yourself requires an entire and immediate lifestyle change. It’s no wonder most people end up quitting. We don’t want to put the effort in if it requires too much change.
Like I said before, I’ve been able to change my sleeping habits, diet, workout routine, and even my skin! But, I did not do all of these things at once. The first thing for me was working out. I realized I wanted a toned body and I wanted to feel strong all the time. I wanted to be healthy for as long as possible and feel energized in my days.
Along with my boyfriend, we decided to start together. That didn’t mean show up to the gym and lift until we dropped. What it meant to us at first was getting excited about working out. We would go to the gym together each morning, and focus on certain exercises we enjoyed. Because we were having fun, and feeling our bodies getting stronger, we were accountable to keep up the momentum. I left the gym feeling proud of myself. Even though the first week was hard on my body, because I was not accustomed to working out every day, I pushed through and it got easier. My body got much stronger over the weeks.
Taking only 1.5 hours out of our day to work out was not a huge adjustment. And that was the key! That was why I stuck with it. Now I’m able to work out hard each of those 6 days. It took me time to get to this level though.
How Can You Take Small Steps?
Don’t overwhelm yourself. Baby steps are important. Start by walking just 1 km per day, 3-5 days a week. Once you are able to do this easily, try to double that. Change it to 2km per day, 3-5 days a week. If this gets comfortable, try jogging half the distance, and walking the other half. Finally, you will be able to jog this distance easily. After that, you will be running in no time! That doesn’t sound so bad right? Starting small allows you to build habits more comfortably. You will be able to stick with it because the changes to your lifestyle are minimal at first. The beauty of the compound effect.
Another example – learning to get up at 4:30am or 5am. This did not happen overnight. I started with 8am! This felt good at first. Each week I would push the alarm slightly earlier, say 15-30 mins earlier. suddenly, a couple months later, I’m easily getting up before 5am each morning. It worked for me because it didn’t feel like I was making huge changes to my life. Setting my alarm just 15 minutes earlier felt like nothing. Then one day I realized I was getting up at 5am consistently! Once again, this was the compound effect working in my favour.
The Ripple Effect
Remember how I said other areas of my life have improved since I started consistently working out? Well, this is how the ripple effect works. As I started seeing results from exercising on a daily basis, I wanted to be healthier in every way possible. I want to start this section with a disclaimer that these were my personal decisions and it does not go against anyone else’s methods or choices. I chose to cut out certain foods that I did not personally enjoy. This does not mean that your eating habits are not good enough. Everyone needs food and you should eat what you decide to. This was my experience that I want to share.
I started cutting out foods I didn’t need. I haven’t eaten a french fry in over 5 months! Not only did this help my diet, but cutting out deep-fried foods saved my skin. I’m not on any strict diet. I make sure I eat lots of foods to stay fueled for my workouts. I also snack all the time too – ice cream is my favourite treat!
Any time I’ve tried to start a strict diet, I end up splurging later that week. The problem for me with a strict diet is that it puts a lot of pressure on the way I’m accustomed to living! Cutting out deep-fried foods was easier for me because I didn’t enjoy those foods as much as other snacks I like. Cutting those foods out made almost no changes to my current ways of living, but I’ve been able to see results because I could stick to that decision. I still eat my favourite snacks all the time, because I feel it’s important to treat yourself. Cutting out fries was just a small sacrifice I made.
I realized that getting up early would require me to go to sleep early. If I wanted to get up at 5am, I would try to be asleep by 9pm. As someone used to sleeping at 12am-3am, this was very hard to do at first! However, without 7 or 8 hours of sleep, I would be too exhausted to work out or honestly do anything.
As I woke up earlier, I would naturally get tired earlier in the night. I corrected my sleep schedule by listening to my body. If I was tired I tried my best to listen to that signal and get ready to sleep. When it was 8:30pm, I would get ready for bed and try to fall asleep by 9pm. If I stayed up until 2am like I used to, I would have been too tired to get up for my workout. If that happened, I may have pushed it off like I used to. Remember, we are forming long-term, sustainable habits! Not a one-time alarm set to 5am.
Now, just because you’ve started building good habits doesn’t mean you will stick with them. That’s where accountability comes in. Holding yourself accountable is so important. You need to set a schedule and stick with it. If you start by working out 3x a week, you better show up those three days. You don’t want the compound effect to work against you!
Get a friend to work out with you and hold each other accountable. A workout buddy makes everything easier. I usually go with my boyfriend now, but in the past I would go with my sister or my mom. Make a schedule with your workout times in it – hold yourself accountable to those times. I use the calendar on my phone to block off 5am-6:30am Sunday to Friday (rest day on saturday). Each day you think you’re too busy for the gym, ask yourself “why did I put it in my calendar then?”. Remind yourself why you put it there. Remember that it was important to you. Missing one day can be the start of a bad habit forming.
It might not be easy at first. I won’t lie, some days you definitely won’t feel like going. The first week was the hardest for me because my body needed to adjust. However, after sticking with small changes, the adjustment became simple. I haven’t missed a single day since I started. Although I haven’t missed a day, there’s been a handful of times I needed to push the workout back a few hours because a good night’s sleep was very important to me. Sometimes school work got in the way of going to sleep early. Try not to let bumps in the road discourage you or ruin your new habits! Doing something is always better than nothing. You can still show up. Do lighter weights if you have to. Run slower if that’s what it takes. Work out later in the day if you need to. Whatever you do will make you feel better!
Taking small, insignificant steps will add up to big changes in the long-term. You just have to stick to your goals. Make a schedule, book time in your calendar. Slowly change your bad habits.
Slowly change your diet. We don’t want to stick with a strict diet for one month. We want to slowly learn to love healthier foods, to eventually enjoy a healthier diet. Our goal is not to get up at 5am just once. We want to adapt to waking up early over time so we can form a sustainable long-term schedule. Waking up just 15-30 minutes earlier every week doesn’t seem too bad right?
In just 3 short months I’ve been able to get up early, sleep 7-8 hours everyday, eat healthier, and love my body. Set your goals, plan your schedule, hold yourself accountable to it, and then watch yourself slowly achieve those goals! You are in control of your life, your mind, and your body. It is up to you to make changes to influence your lifestyle.
Work a little harder each day to gradually get there. You will thank yourself, and love your results. More importantly, you will learn to love yourself by living a healthier lifestyle.
Thanks for reading!