Creating healthy habits 2023
The beginning of the new year is a great time to reflect on how you can create a balanced and healthy life in order for your body and mind to thrive. Whether that is creating new habits regarding rest, work-life-balance, exercise, food or relationships.
A habit is an almost automated routine that we do consistently. In order to create sustainable habits you essentially need to understand how habits work, why you want your new habit – and cut yourself some slack if you have a setback.
The easy part is usually introducing a new routine, the more difficult part is sustaining it. More research is being done in this field but what is agreed upon is that we are individuals that need different habits to stay healthy. Because we all have different lifestyles, carry different genes, history of injuries and traumas, levels of stress triggers, social support and so on. An important factor to take into account when you work on designing a happy and balanced lifestyle. Draw inspiration from others but be mindful about what works for you.
Understanding how a habit works
A habit is made up of three components: An environmental cue > A behavioral response > A reward
The cue triggers the behavior and the reward reinforces the habit. For instance if you eat at the same time every day, time is the trigger, eating is the behavior and the pleasure of food is the reward. Often we don’t even think about our habits, so in order to create a healthy habit or let go of a bad habit, it’s important to understand the three components.
Say you want to start meditating every morning:
- Decide on an environmental cue, for example that you meditate every morning at 6.30. Or maybe you link your meditation to an already existing habit, such as brushing your teeth. So right after brushing your teeth you always meditate.
- Meditating is the behavior you wish to implement.
- The reward can be drinking coffee after the meditation or having a shower. With time, the reward is likely to be the effects you feel from the meditation.
Tips for implementing and sustaining habits
There are a few things you can do to help yourself create new healthy habits, besides for understanding the parts that make up a habit.
- First off, make sure you have a clear intention and understanding of why you want to create a new habit. Write down the reasoning for it so that you have something to fall back on when it feels tough.
- Tell your friends and family about your new routines. They can offer support and when you say your goals out loud they tend to feel more real and you also have someone to talk about your progress with.
- Set small and realistic goals. By doing that you’re setting yourself up for success, as it’s easier to maintain and add goals along the way. Also, studies have shown that it’s more beneficial to exercise or meditate for a short period of time several times per week than it is to do one longer exercise or meditation session once a week.
- Celebrate your victories, always. Small or big, it doesn’t matter. Watch an episode of your favorite series, eat something you like or call a friend. Do something that makes you feel joy.
- If you have a setback, don’t worry and be kind to yourself. Acknowledge that it happened and pick the habit back up again.
Suggestions of healthy habits
Yoga and meditation – Patanjali, a Hindu philosopher and author of the classical yoga text Yoga Sutras wrote “Yoga is the calming of the fluctuations of the mind”. And boy does our mind wander during the day with the hectic lifestyle most of us live. By using yoga and meditation as a tool, you can take control of your thoughts, calm your mind and reconnect with your body. Visit a studio, follow Youtube videos at home or practice by yourself, whichever works best for you. And keep an eye out – in 2023 we’ll have Grounded Factory yoga classes.
Breathwork – Practicing breathwork is said to have several benefits, some of which are decreased levels of stress, more energy, releasing of negative thoughts and improved focus. If you want to practice at a studio, try Hale Center in Stockholm.
Exercise – Go to the gym, go for a run or walk, play soccer, climb, swim, play tennis or padel – find what you like and what motivates you. We like Bruce, a training app connected to many different gyms, studios and training spots in Stockholm. The Public Health Agency of Sweden recommends exercising for at least 150-300 minutes per week (or 75-150 minutes if your training is high intensity). There is also a recommendation to reduce sitting time. If you have a life where you sit a lot, a good habit is to work standing up (if you can) or to take regular, short breaks where you do something active.
Spend time in nature – Evidence shows the connection between nature and improved health. It’s been proven that people who spend time in nature or live close to green areas have less mental distress and are at lower risk for depression, anxiety, heart diseases, diabetes, asthma and migraines. In the 1980s, Japan was first to introduce shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, a form of ecotherapy to help with burn-outs and to inspire residents to reconnect with and protect the country’s forests. It’s a mindful exploration of nature where you use all five senses. Nowadays the therapy can be found in most countries.
Prioritize sleep – Sleep is vital to give the body and mind rest. Not sleeping enough is connected to several health risks including depression, high blood pressure and compromised immunity – to name a few. Creating habits around your sleep is the key to having a good night’s sleep. Go to bed and wake up at approximately the same time every day, get at least seven hours of sleep, and don't spend time in front of a screen right before bed. Fresh air and being out in sunlight is also a great way for your body to follow the natural rhythm of the day and ensure you are tired when it's time to sleep.
Food and water – Healthy habits concerning food can mean many things. Maybe you want to work on creating a healthy relationship to food, eating slower and more mindfully, or eating more or less of something. Everyone has a relationship with food, try to treat that relationship as you would with someone else with love and kindness, so that you create a balanced and happy relationship. If you want to eat more nutritious food, a general rule of thumb is to add and not take away. For example, start by adding greens to all meals. Another habit might be drinking more water to stay hydrated.
Set boundaries – This requires practice and is perhaps the hardest habit of them all. You might need to set more boundaries in a professional setting or in a relationship. A crucial part to be able to do this is to understand yourself, your limits and what gives you energy and what drains you. It’s maybe one of the best ways to show yourself love.
By: Nicky Rosenberg