As a health coach, one of the essential goals I have when working with patients is helping them build habits. Being able to build habits is at the core of making progress and meaningful change. I always start off telling my patients that my overarching goal for them is to be able to become an expert on themselves and proceed with their health and wellness goals in a way that makes sense to them and most importantly, sustainable. I am a huge fan of baby steps and steer away from giving recommendations that are overwhelming. If you think about a baby, from the time they are newborns, through so many growth phases–by the time they are celebrating their first birthday, it is truly amazing. That’s why, even though ‘baby steps’ seem small, over time, they add up to tremendous progress!
So how can you start building habits on your wellness journey?
1.Connect with your why. Ask yourself what your motivation is. Why do you want to achieve a certain goal you have in mind? How will you benefit from achieving your goal? Why is it worth your time and effort? What will happen if you don’t work on this goal? Remembering your why is something that is key, especially when things get hard, you fall off the rails a bit, or you need to pick me up to keep going. To figure out your motivation, envision yourself already achieving your goal. How will you feel? What do you see yourself doing? Who are you with?
2. Mindset is everything. Adopting a positive mindset and giving yourself grace is super important when you start implementing habits. A lot of us have an all or nothing mentality and beat ourselves up if we make one mistake, miss one workout, or indulge in a treat. Focusing on the positives is super important and understanding that you will not be perfect 100% of the time is crucial. Give yourself grace when things don’t go exactly as planned and find the next opportunity to make a better choice. Acknowledge that you are trying your best and give yourself room for slip ups, changed plans that you can’t control, or just room to breathe!
3. Set SMART goals. When thinking about how you’re going to go about achieving your goals, make sure your goals align with your values and that they are smart (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely). You want to make sure that you narrow down your goal into something that you can track, that doesn’t make you stretch outside your comfort zone too much, is something you can realistically do and will attach a time to it to measure your progress.
4. Accountability is crucial. This is where health coaching shines the most and is most beneficial to patients. A lot of us know what our goals are and most of the time, we have the tools to achieve our goals. The thing that takes it to the next level is having accountability around our goals. As a health coach, I am also an accountability partner, providing a safe space for patients to check in with their progress and help them discover the best way to move forward. Even if you are not working with a health coach, it is important to have some way of staying accountable. Sometimes, our partners, friends, or other family members can serve as accountability partners. There are apps that help with this, or simply using a whiteboard or checklist can do the trick. The most important thing to remember is to use something that actually works for you.
5. Evaluate your progress and celebrate your wins. Regardless of your goals, how you set out to achieve them, or what method of accountability you use, evaluating your progress from time to time is important! It’s beneficial to take a step back every once in a while to critique what’s working, what’s not, if your goals have changed, or if you’d like to start working on a new goal. It is also important to celebrate your wins, no matter how small. This not only helps you stay positive, but it also reaffirms your values, connects you with your why and gives you the motivation to continue.
6. Be patient. Building habits is a process and journey. Don’t expect to get everything right the first try! You will need time to figure out what works best for you and what doesn’t. Also remember that life happens and sometimes things are out of our control. The most important thing is to learn from these moments and capitalize on them by asking yourself what you’ve learned and how you can proceed in a way that’s meaningful to you.
Building habits does not have to be a daunting task. With these tips and tricks, you will see that in no time, you are crushing your goals and increasing your confidence!
Marwa Ismail, Health Coach, uses her training from Institute for Integrative Nutrition and MindBodyGreen to empower patients in making sustainable lifestyle changes to better their health & wellness.