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Do you ever find yourself standing at the refrigerator when you’re not even hungry? Or maybe you didn’t meet your step goal for a third day in a row. When we fall short of our goals, blame and shame can start to set in. Having goals and wanting to change your habits can be exciting at first, especially when you’re motivated. But motivation is only one part of making healthy change stick.
You may have heard the saying, “It takes 21 days to make or break a habit,” but has that actually worked for you? According to a 2009 study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes an average of 66 days for a person to form a new habit (but can take anywhere from 18 to 254!).
Changing habits can be difficult. Whether it’s about diet, drinking too much, news consumption, poor exercise, or high anxiety, people are often looking for ways to make healthy changes. To create lasting change, you have to look at all layers of your lifestyle, including the routines and subconscious patterns and habits.
Habits are actions that are triggered automatically in response to contextual cues that have been associated with past performance. For example, when you get into your car, you automatically put on the seat belt. You don’t think about doing it. It is routine and habit, the same way brushing your hair or teeth is. Our brain likes habits because they’re efficient. But what about those habits that are hindering your health?
[Read: “17 Healthy Habits to Start (or Restart) Now.”]
Negative thinking is one of the most common unhealthy habits, yet there is a way to work through it. Affirmations are a mindset trick you can use to not only get out of the mental madness of negative thinking but also to help you stay on track when you want to make healthy change last.
A good place to start is to visualize yourself changing—spend some time every day envisioning yourself with new habits. Picture yourself exercising longer and enjoying it, eating healthy foods joyfully, or fitting into those jeans again.
In addition, you want to monitor your negative self-talk. The inner critic in your brain can seriously affect your default behaviors. So, when you catch yourself saying, “I’m fat” or “I will be alone forever,” reframe or redirect. Replace it with, “I’m getting healthy,” or “I am thankful for what is going well.” These are considered affirmations— positive messages we tell ourselves, often in the face of fear or doubt. You can create positive change by switching the script in your mind, and focus on the good.
Whether you’ve decided to make personal change a full-year resolution, or simply want to change up your day-to-day routine, changing a habit can be the start of a meaningful personal transformation, and these affirmations can help.
Accept that you will sometimes falter. We all do. Habits don’t change overnight (or even necessarily in 66 days!), but with affirmations in your back pocket, it can make the process much easier and more enjoyable.
These affirmations for making healthy change stick are from Shannon Kaiser’s book Find Your Happy Daily Mantras.
Read on for tips to train for brain for good habits.
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