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The Neuroscience of Bad Habits and Why It’s Not About Will Power

Why are bad habits so hard to break? What if the bumper sticker “Just Say No!” actually works against us? If willpower were the answer to breaking bad habits then we  decisionswouldn’t have drug addiction or obesity. There’s something going on in our brains where we literally lose the ability for self-control, but all hope isn’t lost.

Nora Volkow, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse calls the phrase “Just Say No!” “magical thinking.”

It appears that dopamine is one of the main chemicals regulating the pleasure center of the brain. At the most basic level, it regulates motivation — it sends signals to receptors in the brain saying, “This feels good!”

Whether you’re a heroin addict and you see an association to heroin, you’re a caffeine addict and you see a cup of coffee, you’re a Smartphone addict and you see another person pick up their phone, or if you’re hungry and you see some good-looking food, your brain rushes with dopamine and that is now caught on brain-scanning machines.

The fascinating thing is that Volkow has found that  the images alone affect the rise of dopamine in our brains. So if we pass a McDonald’s and see the arches, our brain associates that with a tasty hamburger (for some) and shoots up dopamine. That good feeling will unconsciously drive the motivation to go in and get a Big Mac. It’s a conditioned response. The same goes for anything including most likely our relationships to our phones.

A blue button with the word Change on it

What can we do?

It makes sense why more and more addiction centers are integrating mindfulness into their curriculum. Mindfulness practice has been shown to activate the prefrontal cortex and cool down the amygdala. This gives us the ability to widen the space between stimulus and response where choice lies and access possibilities and opportunities we didn’t know were there before. This is crucial when it comes to our addictive behaviors to take a step back, “think through the drink” and recognize the various options that lie before us.

We can learn to step into the pause, notice the sensation of the urge that’s there and as the late Alan Marlatt, Ph.D. said, “surf the urge” as it peaks, crests and falls back down like a wave in the ocean.

One place to start is to just get curious about the pull you feel to whatever you think you’re compulsive with. An easy one besides some of the arguably more destructive habits (drugs, alcohol) is our phones.

Today, be on the lookout for what cues you to check your app. Do you see someone else doing it? Are you waiting somewhere and there’s something uncomfortable about waiting? Is it a certain time of day or place?

Training your brain to recognize this cue can help you get some space from it to ask, “What do I really want to pay attention to right now? What matters?” As we get better at recognizing that space between stimulus and response and making the choices that run alongside our values, like riding a bike, it will start to come more naturally.

Just because our brains have been altered by our compulsive behaviors, doesn’t mean we’re destined to fall into the same habits. With the right skills, community and support we can learn how to break out of routine and into a life worth living.

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. 
 
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Key To Willpower Lies In Believing You Have It In Abundance

North Americans believe they have less stamina for strenuous mental activity than their European counterparts – an indication that people in the U.S. perceive their willpower or self-control as being in limited supply, a new study suggests.

More than 1,100 North Americans and 1,600 Europeans – including 775 Swiss and 871 German-speaking adults – participated in the study, which tested the validity of a widely used psychological assessment tool called the Implicit Theory of Willpower for Strenuous Mental Activities Scale.

People taking the assessment are asked to rate their level of agreement with statements such as, “After a strenuous mental activity, your energy is depleted, and you must rest to get it refueled again.”

North Americans in the study were more likely to indicate that they needed breaks to rest and recover after performing mentally taxing activities, while their European counterparts reported feeling more invigorated and ready to jump into the next challenging task immediately.

“What matters most is what we think about our willpower,” said the study’s lead author, University of Illinois educational psychology professor Christopher Napolitano. “When we view our willpower as limited, it’s similar to a muscle that gets tired and needs rest. If we believe it is a finite resource, we act that way, feeling exhausted and needing breaks between demanding mental tasks, while people who view their willpower as a limitless resource get energized instead.”

Napolitano and co-author Veronika Job of the University of Zurich sought to test whether the ITW-M measured the concept of willpower consistently across sexes and different cultures. Participants’ scores on the ITW-M questionnaire were compared with their scores on similar assessments that explored their beliefs about intelligence, life satisfaction and trait self-control, which relates to their ability to rein in their impulses.

The data indicated that the ITW-M had strong invariance between men and women. The instrument was slightly less consistent across cultures, demonstrating some variance in one of the seven U.S. samples and in one of the five samples of Europeans, the researchers found.

However, the researchers hypothesized that an imprecise translation of the word “energized” may have skewed some of the Swiss and German participants’ interpretation of one question.

Why do some people seem locked in a lifelong battle for self-control while others are so self-disciplined – impervious to overeating, overspending or binge-watching TV shows when they feel pressured?

The secret to having ironclad willpower lies in believing that you have an unlimited supply of it, Napolitano said.

“Your feelings about your willpower affect the way you behave – but these feelings are changeable,” Napolitano said. “Changing your beliefs about the nature of your self-control can have positive effects on development, leading to healthier behaviors and perceptions of others.”

The study was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Story Source:
Materials provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Original written by Sharita Forrest. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.  
January 18, 2018


Journal Reference:
Christopher M Napolitano, Veronika Job. Assessing the implicit theories of willpower for strenuous mental activities scale: Multigroup, across-gender, and cross-cultural measurement invariance and convergent and divergent validity. Psychological Assessment, 2018 DOI: 10.1037/pas0000557


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8 Things Mentally Healthy People Do Differently

“Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices. Mental health is importance at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.” – U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

Most times when we hear something, anything, being discussed about mental health, the context is usually negative. For example, we’ll often watch news anchors explain that some violent act was committed by someone known to have “mental health issues.” Less frequently discussed are the positive aspects of mental health – something that we’d like to focus on today. We believe this to be important, as research shows a steady increase in the proliferation of mental health problems.

More specifically, we discuss how mentally healthy people think.

The rationale for this article is to provide a common set of psychological traits in “mentally healthy” people; traits which can then be used as a sort-of “benchmark” for gaining potential insight into our own mental health.

First, three important side notes: (1) nobody is perfectly healthy, neither physically or mentally, (2) this piece is written for entertainment purposes, and (3) should you believe that you suffer from a psychological disorder, it is recommended to seek out help or talk to someone.

HERE ARE EIGHT THINGS MENTALLY HEALTHY PEOPLE DO DIFFERENTLY:

1. THEY HAVE A POSITIVE SOCIAL CIRCLE

Steven Joyal, M.D., and vice president of scientific affairs and medical development at a non-profit mental health research institute, states: “The idea that social interaction is important to mental and physical health has been hinted at and studied for years.”

Per a meta-study conducted at Brigham Young University, which analyzed 148 studies of over 300,000 subjects, a positive social circle has a direct effect on mortality. Researchers concluded that this positive correlation is a direct reflection on the intangible benefits of an active social circle – namely, a circle that counteracts stress through comfort and companionship.

2. THEY ARE PROACTIVE, RATHER THAN REACTIVE

The inclination to consistently improve oneself, as opposed to simply reacting to environmental stimuli, is directly connected to mental health. Having a proactive mindset displays self-awareness and a willingness to work towards a long-term goal.

In short, a proactive mindset manifests into a positive mind state, while a reactive mindset demonstrates a lack of self-control – a trait that often evolves into problems with mental health.

3. THEY CARE FOR THEIR BODY

Understanding that one’s body is directly connected to one’s mind is a vital piece of knowledge. A physically active lifestyle is an ubiquitous tendency among those with a healthy state of mind.

Combining a physically active lifestyle with healthy dietary habits is a clear indication that one is mentally healthy. Those that lack either are more prone to mental health issues.

woman universe

4. THEY POSSESS GOOD EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE

Emotional intelligence is simply the ability to understand emotions and their subsequent impacts on mind and body. Capably interpreting what’s going on inside your mind and body subsequently enables you to do something about them.

5. THEY ARE SELF-GUIDED AND PRODUCTIVE

Being able to guide yourself in a positive way is a surefire sign of mental health. People with mental health problems are often a “victim” of their circumstances. In contrast, mentally healthy people are able to understand their situation and make something positive happen.

If you’re setting goals and making them part of your daily life, you are likely both disciplined and mentally-healthy. Giving way to instant gratification and/or always feeling lethargic may indicate a problem.

6. THEY’RE IN CONTROL OF THEIR BEHAVIOR

The rare ability to resist most temptations and negative impulses is a sign of mental health. Why? Because to do so requires self-knowledge, resilience, and willpower; three attributes commonly absent within those with a mental health problem.

Furthermore, you’re able to consistently adhere to a positive routine. This is important, as a positive routine is often an indication of a positive state of mind.

7. THEY ACCEPT THEMSELVES FOR WHO THEY ARE

Sadly, many people with a negative self-image often succumb to conditions such as anxiety and depression. Having a positive (not necessarily a “high”) sense of self-worth often indicates a healthy state of mind.

It’s important to understand that we all have things we wish to improve upon. The difference lies in the reaction to such desires. Mentally healthy people will devise a plan, whilst those not so healthy will remain in a static state of mind.

Which leads us to the final item on this list…

8. THEY HAVE EXCELLENT SELF-REALIZATION SKILLS

The current “situation,” whether good or bad, great or terrible, is more astutely interpreted in those with a healthy state of mind. It’s not altogether more uncommon for a mentally healthy person to find themselves in a bad scenario; they just recognize it sooner and take the appropriate, more productive actions.

Those in a negative state of mind – be it “mentally ill” or whatever – are less likely to realize the adverse situation and do something about it.

SOURCES:
CASSERLY, M. (2010, AUGUST 24). FRIENDS WITH HEALTH BENEFITS. RETRIEVED FEBRUARY 06, 2017, FROM HTTP://WWW.FORBES.COM/2010/08/24/HEALTH-RELATIONSHIPS-LONGEVITY-FORBES-WOMAN-WELL-BEING-SOCIAL-ISOLATION.HTML
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES. WHAT IS MENTAL HEALTH?. (N.D.). RETRIEVED FEBRUARY 06, 2017, FROM HTTPS://WWW.MENTALHEALTH.GOV/BASICS/WHAT-IS-MENTAL-HEALTH/


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Counting Your Blessings Can Improve Your Life

Health Benefits of Gratitude: 5 Ways Counting Your Blessings Can Improve Your Life

Thanksgiving will come and go, but the positive effects of gratitude can last all year. 

Gratitude can help you sleep better

In a study from Grant MacEwan University in Alberta, Canada, anxious students slept better when they jotted down a list of things they were thankful for before bed every night for a week than when they didn’t do the writing exercise. Study authors hypothesized that thinking about their blessings helped students reduce worry and quiet their minds.

Gratitude can increase your willpower

In a fascinating experiment from Harvard University and others, scientists challenged participants with a test of willpower: Take $54 now or receive $80 in 30 days. While they contemplated their decision, the subjects were asked to write about a time they felt grateful, happy, or neutral. Those who wrote about a grateful experience showed far more resolve to delay their reward than the rest of the group. The scientists believe gratitude fostered long-term thinking, which bolstered willpower.

gratitude

Gratitude can lower stress

Instead of counting worries, try putting a number to your blessings. According to science journalist Giovanni Alesio, several studies suggest that gratitude can decrease stress and anxiety by activating the areas in the brain that the release feel-good hormones serotonin and dopamine.

Gratitude can help you make more friends

If you want to expand your social circle, try saying these two words: Thank you. In a 2015 study published in the journal Emotion, thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship.

Gratitude can reduce aches and pains

Sounds like a long shot, but according to research by Robert Emmons, a University of California, Davis professor and pioneer in the study of gratitude, grateful people report fewer symptoms of illness and are less bothered by aches and pains.

by Beth Dreher

source: www.rd.com


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5 Ways To Turn Weakness Into Willpower

As Oscar Wilde once said: “I can resist anything except temptation.”

That’s something most of us can relate to. If you’re not one of us, then well done.

For the rest of us, though, there will come a time when we need to ‘not’ do something we want to do. Don’t smoke that cigarette, don’t eat that cake, or skip the soda!

As nice as life is, it is often one long list of temptations that need to be avoided. So what do we do when we are having trouble saying “no” or are fearful of trying something new? We dig deep for the willpower to push us through. Sometimes that’s easier said than done.

TO HELP US OUT, HERE ARE FIVE WAYS TO STRENGTHEN OUR WILLPOWER:

1. PLAN THE OUTCOME

In the words of Greg S. Reid: “A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action makes your dreams come true.”

There are three critical components of that statement:

  • Writing it down.
  • Breaking it down.
  • Taking action.

We are often guilty of short-term thinking, only seeing what is in front of us. Instead, we should be looking at a bigger picture. So start by writing it down. It will help you become crystal clear about the direction you want to head. Then break it down into manageable parts, so the big goal seems attainable. Then, find the willpower within to take the first step and when you do, your willpower will grow stronger. It’s like a muscle, and it gets better with exercise. So exercise it!

2. AVOID IT!

Avoid situations where there is a need to make tough decisions. Tough decisions will deplete willpower fast. For example, a person who wishes to stop drinking would do well to avoid bars for a while. However, hanging out at the juice bar at the gym will help strengthen willpower, because there isn’t a difficult choice to make.

choice

 

3. REWARD YOURSELF.

Yes, when we do good things we like to be rewarded. Collect the money saved from not buying that packet of cigarettes. Collect in a jar and keep it visible. After a period, take the money and splurge on something frivolous like a spa day or new pair of boots. Like any other goals you have written down, focus on them, visualize them and embed that picture in your mind, permanently.

You strengthen your willpower when you remain focused on positive results. Draw on those feelings of success when faced with difficult choices, and you’re more likely to choose wisely.

4. BE ACCOUNTABLE.

Accountability partners are a great way to strengthen our willpower because we are more likely to do what we are supposed to do when we have to report back to someone. The added benefit is we get to call on the willpower of our partner when our willpower is lacking. Friends can achieve a lot together; that’s why they’re friends, and everyone can find a friend or a colleague who has similar goals.

Look at it another way; there is a reason that ‘clubs’ are popular, things like gyms, weight watchers, etc.  They will keep us honest, grounded, and moving forward.  Now, you don’t necessarily need to join a club; just gather a few friends and set up an accountability group.

5. STAY THE COURSE.

If there have been times in the past when we have fallen at the feet of temptation, remember those times and gather strength from them. We should never, ever, take our eye off the prize. Think about it; what changed?  Was it:

The goal? Unlikely.

The dream holiday? Unlikely.

The dream dress we’re trying to squeeze into? Unlikely.

Any other goal? Unlikely.

Instead, we probably gave in to temptation once, then twice, then three times and soon realized we failed. So we gave up. We will continue to fail until the time we don’t and that time maybe the next time.

Making change is hard. In fact, we are designed to resist change. So it might be unrealistic to think we can get there on the first try. But with each try and a clear focus on the goal, you will build the willpower to keep trying until you get it right.

Face it, without a little failure we would have no stories to tell or lessons to learn. Think once again about the goal and measure the triumphs one step at a time. When we stay the course, make a plan, avoid situations that will make things more challenging, find some friends, and then reward ourselves for each step, we will soon learn the day of achieving our big goals is closer than we think.


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Improve Your Eating Habits Without Drastically Changing Your Behaviour

Angela Mulholland, Staff writer      Thursday, May 21, 2015

When we choose to wolf down a bag of tortilla chips instead of an apple, it’s probably not because we don’t know the apple would have been the healthier choice. The chips were easier to grab and we didn’t give it a whole lot of thought.

So if we want to start eating better, the healthy choices have to be just as mindlessly easy to grab.

Brian Wansink, Ph.D., the director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, has spent decades studying why we make the eating choices we do. He’s found the key to getting people to choose healthy foods over unhealthy ones is not about willpower or arming them with nutrition knowledge; it’s simply about making sure good foods are convenient (C), attractive (A) and normal (N).

Wansink calls it the CAN Approach. In a new paper published in Psychology & Marketing, he reviewed more than 110 studies and found that those approaches that were most effective at guiding people to healthier choices used at least one of the three keys of the CAN Approach.

In his most recent book, “Slim By Design,” Wansink argues that making a few changes to your routine and a few areas of your home will be a lot easier than trying to stick to a diet.

“People are terrible at making big changes,” Wansink told CTVNews.ca in a recent phone interview. “But we find if people are perseverant with these small changes for 25 days, they lose an average of 1.4 lbs month.”

That might not sound like a lot of weight, “but that’s more than they will lose by going on a diet,” says Wansink. And, he says, these are meant to be small, permanent behaviour changes that will encourage healthier eating over the long term.

So here are a few tweaks you can make right now at home based on Wansink’s ideas to push yourself toward healthy eating, no willpower required.

CONVENIENT

• Put fruit in a bowl on the counter: Simply putting fruit where you’ll see it will help to remind you to grab a piece before heading out the door to work or school.

• Re-arrange the fridge: True, veggies and fruit last longer in the crisper drawers, but if you can’t see them, chances are you’ll forget about them. Food and Brand Lab researchers who asked participants to re-arrange their fridges to put the healthiest stuff on the middle and top shelves found that the volunteers ate three times as many fruits and vegetables after just one week.

• Cut up fruit for your kids: Wansink’s research has found that kids don’t really like biting into big pieces of fruit: it’s too big for their mouths; they have missing teeth; the fruit gets in their braces or it’s just too messy. But cut up that fruit into cute, bite-sized pieces and fruit suddenly becomes a lot easier for kids to eat.

• Cook in big batches: If you make extra meals and freeze them in small portions, it becomes a lot easier to re-heat leftovers after a busy day than ordering pizza

• Make less-healthy snacks inconvenient: We tend to be lazy when we’re looking for snacks. So placing snack items in the back of a cupboard, out of reach — or better yet, in a faraway room like the laundry room — makes it a lot less convenient and gives us time to think about whether we’re really hungry or just bored.

• Buy portion-sized snacks: Wansink’s research has shown that snackers will eat fewer calories and still be satisfied if they eat snacks from small packages. Yes, we could always grab a second bag, but research shows we generally don’t make the effort.

almonds

ATTRACTIVE

• Make your meals more colourful: Colourful meals are more attractive meals, Wansink’s research has shown. He’s found that adults like to see at least three colours on their plates, while children prefer even more — six colours or more. Simple ways to add colour could involve tossing in chopped green and red peppers to rice, or making salads more colurful by adding in tomatoes, fruits, and seeds.

• Use colourful plates: One easy way to add colour to meals is through our plates. But be careful. Wansink’s lab has found that when food is the same colour as the plate, we tend not to see how big our serving is and serve ourselves about 20 per cent more than when there’s a lot of contrast between the food and the plate.

• Give food a descriptive name: Adults know that a dish described as Fresh Linguini with Creamy Alfredo sounds a lot more appealing than Pasta with White Sauce. The same holds true for kids. Wansink has found that when vegetables are given fun names such as X-Ray Vision Carrots, or Power Punch Broccoli, or Silly Dilly Green Beans, kids think of these foods as fun and will gobble them up.

• Add a garnish: You wouldn’t think that a parsley sprig would do much, but studies have shown that people rate a dish higher if it comes beautifully arranged with a garnish than if the same food is served plain. “It’s funny, isn’t it,” says Wansink, “but a garnish also makes people rate the meal as lower calorie too, which is even funnier, really.”

NORMAL

• Ask the kids what Batman would eat: A Food and Brand Lab study shows that when young children believe that a favorite character would choose a healthy food over a less healthy choice, they see that food is normal and choose to eat it too.

• Set an example for the kids: When kids see their parents eating a variety of healthy foods and trying new things, they will see these eating habits as normal too. Same goes for treats: when they’re at home only on special occasions, that too sets the norm for kids.

• Set new meal traditions: Make healthy foods a normal part of every meal by setting up new habits such as starting every dinner with a salad, or ending every meal with fresh fruit. Or begin weekly traditions such as Smoothie Sundays or Stir-fry Saturdays.

• Use smaller plates: The Cornell Food lab has found that people lose all perspective about portion size when they use a large plate. Not only do they help themselves to more, they believe they’ve eaten less than they have. Making a slightly smaller plate the norm is an easy way to keep your portion sizes under control.

• Ordering first when you dine out: By going first and choosing a light entree without an appetizer, you’ll set the “norm” of the meal and your dinner companies are more likely to follow suit. At buffet-style restaurants, make it a practice to sit far from the buffet. Wansink’s research has found that overweight people tend to face the buffet, watching other diners who then make it seem the norm to go back for third or fourth servings. Stay near the window and you’ll likely eat less.


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Overcoming Resistance to Change: The Secret to Lasting Health

By Deane Alban      Contributing Writer for Wake Up World    October 2014

What do you want to do when you retire? The most common answers to this question are to spend time with friends and family, travel, volunteer, exercise (finally!), learn new things, live abroad, and write a book.  But you won’t be able to do these things later if you don’t take care of your body and your brain now.

If you’re like most people, you’ve tried to change, but you find it really, really hard (as in “impossible”). You’ve made the resolutions and set the goals. When you’ve failed, you’ve tried even harder, but making change stick has still eluded you.

Let’s take a look at why the usual ways of making lifestyle changes often fail. Then I’ll give you some super-easy but counter-intuitive tips to create new, healthy habits.

Change the Usual Way Is Hard

Most people rely exclusively on motivation and willpower to make a change. There are some surprising reasons this doesn’t work.

Motivation

When you decide to start a new diet, exercise program, or any self-improvement venture, you are usually psyched! You just know this time you’re going to stick with it. You’re excited about the new gym you joined or a new diet book you’ve read, and your motivation is high.

Initially you are motivated by the pleasure of what you want (getting into your skinny jeans, wearing a bathing suit this summer) and the pain of what you don’t want (hating the way you look, having a heart attack). But motivation naturally diminishes with time.

Willpower

When motivation starts to wane, you switch to relying on willpower. But no one has an endless supply of willpower — it is a resource that gets used up. When your day is filled with things you really don’t want to do, by the end of the day you no longer have any willpower reserve left.

So you spend the evening plopped down in front of the TV munching on unhealthy snacks, vowing to do better tomorrow. It’s not your fault — you simply have no willpower left to make the healthier, harder choices.

If motivation and willpower let you down, don’t despair! There is another answer that relies on using the power of your subconscious brain.

Make Change Easy by Working With Your Brain

According to neuroscientist Dr. Bruce Lipton, author of The Biology of Belief, 95% of your life is dictated by the subconscious mind. This is the part of your brain that runs a large portion of your life on autopilot enabling you to do many tasks without thinking about them, everything from tying your shoes to driving a car.

When you do something often enough, it becomes a habit.  Habits are activities you do effortlessly with minimal thought on your part. You can appreciate the power of a habit when you try to stop a bad one. It’s tough!

Next, I’ll tell you how to harness the power of your brain to stop struggling with a healthy lifestyle change by turning it into a habit!

I’m going to use an example of starting a walking program, but these concepts can be used for creating any new healthy habit.

Take Baby Steps

Setting big goals is exciting! Telling your friends (and yourself) that you are going to start walking 5 miles a day sounds impressive, but you are probably setting yourself up for failure.

But starting with small boring goals, “baby steps”, will greatly increase your chance for success. There will be many days you won’t walk at all if 5 miles is your goal. But if you make walking around the block your goal, you can certainly accomplish that!

You will feel good that you’ve honored your commitment to yourself. But even more important, you’ve created a new neural pathway that turns your daily walk into a habit.

Using small goals tricks your brain. Your subconscious likes to be in control and doesn’t like change. A huge change often sets up subconscious resistance, but a small change will be accepted. You can learn more about using this “small is better” concept at TinyHabits.com.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
– Lao-tzu

change



Use Triggers

Ask anyone who smokes and they can tell you about triggers. Most smokers have triggers to smoke after a meal, with a cup of coffee, or after sex. You can use triggers to your advantage. When you regularly take a walk after another event (such as eating dinner), your brain will create an association so you’ll automatically be inclined to take a walk after dinner.

You can help yourself with visual triggers, too. Leave your walking shoes by the front door, keep your pedometer by your keys, or lay your walking attire on your bed to create triggers you can’t miss.

Be Prepared

If you are going to start a new habit, you need to be prepared. A successful walking habit means more than putting one foot in front of the other.

Initially, you have a few decisions to make. Where are you going to walk? What time do you want to leave? Are you going to walk alone or solo? Will you bring your dog? Should you bring water?

Next, get the right equipment to ensure your success. Get a good pair of comfortable walking shoes and socks to match. Get a water bottle that’s comfortable to carry.

People who use a pedometer walk 27% more than those who don’t, so consider getting one to encourage your success.  The Fitbit One is an incredible, tiny device that track your steps, distance, calories burned, and even your sleep cycle. Pretty amazing!

Make It Convenient

Put everything you need to take a walk in one convenient place so you can grab it and go. If your shoes are in the linen closet, your socks are in the bedroom, your house key in your desk drawer, and your left your water bottle in the car, you’ll give up before you get out the door! icon cry Overcoming Resistance to Change: The Secret to Lasting Health

Make It Fun

Make your walk something you look forward to. If you like companionship, find a walking partner. If you enjoy music, podcasts, or audiobooks, listen while you walk. You’ll find the time spent walking flies by!

The Big Red X

When Jerry Seinfeld was an upcoming comedian, he created the habit of writing new material every day using a wall calendar and a red marker. You can do the same.

Put up a wall calendar (there are free ones you can print online) in a highly-visible place, like on the fridge. Every day you take your walk, cross out that day with a BIG RED X. You won’t want to see any blank days which will, as Jerry says, “break the chain”. I’d listen to Jerry. He’s been pretty successful. icon wink Overcoming Resistance to Change: The Secret to Lasting Health

It’s widely accepted that it takes 30 days to create a new habit, so after one month, your new habit will largely be formed. Then you can ramp it up to the next level. Eventually you can turn your walk around the block into a five-mile-a-day habit, if that’s your ultimate goal.

Small Habits Create Gateways

These techniques can be used for any lifestyle change you want to make – diet, exercise, meditation, stress reduction techniques, and more.

Not sure where to begin? Here are some examples of healthy “baby steps” you could take:

  • Replace one soda with a glass of water.
  • Replace one cup of coffee with a cup of green tea.
  • Eat a small baggie of raw vegetables as one of your snacks.
  • Have a piece of fruit instead of dessert after dinner.
  • Do 5 minutes of yoga stretches in the morning and in the evening.
  • Listen to a 10 minute meditation.
  • Pick one healthy change (or create your own) and commit to doing it daily for 30 days to create a new healthy habit.

Small changes aren’t very exciting, but many people have found using this technique really works to bring lasting change. Your new habit can serve as a gateway to bigger changes that can significantly improve your life.

Article References
 http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/planning-to-retire/2013/03/01/10-things-to-do-in-retirement
 http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703478704574612052322122442
 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2094159

Article Source
Surprisingly…Unstuck: Rewire Your Brain to Exercise More, Eat Right, and Truly Enjoy Doing So by Maria Brilaki