Many of us can identify a time in our lives when we planned to make healthier lifestyle changes, such as eating better, getting more sleep, exercising regularly, and reducing stressors, but we soon found that our good intentions faded and we reverted to old habits. Habits, as we all know, are those things we do automatically—things that we do not have to think about. Unfortunately, our brain does not distinguish between good and not-so-good habits. According to psychologist Shilagh Mirgain (2017), when we form a habit, we are actually forming a pathway in our brains. Mirgain explains that we never really get rid of negative habits; we just create good habits that override the undesirable ones.
Changing habits requires intentional effort and time. Often the results take longer than expected and we soon find ourselves reverting to former habits. We all have that vision of what we want to be and how we want to feel, but getting there can be tough. We have seen countless articles, books, apps, and products that promise to improve our health and well-being. So why might our success be hampered? We often focus on too many areas at once and become overwhelmed. We may not know the first step to take or have a well-developed plan of how to commit to healthy habits. Getting healthy takes planning, effort, and above all, patience. Inserting new routines into your current lifestyle is not easy. It is not a matter of will power; it is a matter of rewiring the brain. Change becomes more achievable if you choose strategies that enhance your chance of success. It is equally important to be aware of your strengths, tendencies, and aptitudes. For example, if you are a night owl, it might be unrealistic to plan to go to the gym at 5:30 a.m. Wellness is an ever-changing process to live life in a way that allows you to become the best kind of person that your potential and circumstance will allow.
New habits are built around dozens of minuscule choice points that create conditions that encourage and support change. People often look for a big “aha” moment. Astonishing change can occur over time as we consistently use small, incremental habits of wellness. Identifying those choice points can form good habits. For example, if you want a peaceful wake-up routine, the choice point might be to leave your phone in another room.
Thankfully, life is not fixed. There are countless things that can change, and equally true is the fact that we all must accept a certain amount of uncertainty. To focus on what you cannot change is exhausting and can lead to stagnation and pessimism. As you identify daily wellness habits, which ones are worth your time and effort? What’s in your control? Wellness is not a destination but a journey. Each person’s journey is unique. This mindset allows each one of us to experience a fuller and richer life. Our overall health is measured by how well we manage our body, mind, and soul. Making the habits of wellness a part of our daily journey contributes directly to a happier and healthier life. Wellness is not a goal to be achieved, but a life of choices to be lived.
- Mirgain, S. A. (2017). Creating new healthy habits. Retrieved from https://www.uwhealth.org/health-wellness/creating-new-health-habits/50047