• mmoses93

5 Steps for Creating Healthy Habits

By Deepak Chopra, M.D.

(Full Article at https://chopra.com/articles/5-steps-for-creating-healthy-habits-0)



A basic outline for prevention has existed for more than thirty years, but wellness has had a hard time making real headway. Old habits are hard to break. Our society has a magic bullet fixation, waiting for the next miracle drug to cure us of every ill. Doctors receive no economic benefit from pushing prevention over drugs and surgery. For all these reasons, compliance with prevention falls far below what is needed for maximum wellness.


Rather than feeling gloomy, my focus has been on getting the individual to take charge of their own wellness. This can be a considerable challenge, since we are each unique in our bodies but also unique in our pattern of bad habits and poor lifestyle choices. Conditioning is hard to break, but once your mind begins to pay attention, your brain can build new neural pathways to reinforce what you learn.


It has always been true that applying awareness in any form, through such things as resolve, discipline, good intentions, and mindfulness, has the power to create change. The practical dilemma is how to use your strengths and motivation to help yourself remain committed to wellness as a lifetime pattern.




Step 1: Set Goals by Baselining Your Health


The first step in taking control of your well-being is to set goals, and a sensible way to do this is to “baseline” your health. Gather some basic facts that realistically inform you about your body: weight, height, family history, exercise habits, general diet, and a self-assessment of your stress levels at work and in your home life.


How do you actually set your goals? Start thinking about the big picture. Changing poor lifestyle habits is rarely easy, especially if they comfort you, as smoking or overeating do for many people. You need a strong vision of what you want to achieve in order to succeed. I’d say the strongest vision comes from knowing about a simple trend: the latest research shows that more and more disorders, including most cancers, are preventable through a good wellness program. The benefits are increasing with every new study.


Step 2: Set Priorities


Making lists of your hot spots and your sweet spots will help you to set your personal priorities. The hot spots are weaknesses, the sweet spots strengths that crop up during an ordinary day. You can’t attack every bad pattern all at once; it’s good to achieve a series of small victories at first.


Hot spots: List the times you feel unhappy or most agitated; identify with clear sights your biggest challenges, such as getting to bed on time, reducing food portions, resisting sweets, choosing the couch over the treadmill, and so on. Doing this will help your mission take shape and direction.


Sweet spots: List the things that give you joy and satisfaction and appreciating those sweet spots in your life is a source of strength as you embark on your habit-changing mission.



Step 3: Identify Harmful Patterns


To change your negative habits, you have to know what they are. Some are obvious, but others may be less so.


Forming a new habit takes repetition and focus. Visualizing your desired outcome is a useful tool in your journey. “Seeing” yourself as you wish to be has helped smokers quit, obese people lose weight, and sports champions achieve their goals. In order to change the printout of the body, you must learn to rewrite the software of the mind.


Step 4: Make Steady Changes


Even though you are working on the big picture, for psychological reasons a series of small victories is desirable. In essence, you are training your brain to succeed. Most of us, having been defeated by old conditioning, take the course of least resistance, not realizing that we are training our brains into pathways that rob us of free will over time.


So begin with a victory you can define and which means something to you and over time, what seem like baby steps will produce new physiological changes in every cell of the body. Trillions of cells are eavesdropping on your every thought and action. Instead of pretending that your body doesn’t know what you’re doing, make yourself the gift of delivering good news to your cells.


The most important victories tend to occur in awareness, however if you tend to procrastinate, be aware of the reasons you do it. We get comfortable in our warm, fuzzy old routines, and making changes, even small ones, feels threatening psychologically, as if even a positive change is a risk. Predict when you will procrastinate and invent a strategy to outmaneuver your future self. For example, if you know you’ll be tempted to hit the snooze button instead of getting up for an early morning jog, put your exercise clothes across the room from your bed—with your alarm clock on top.



Step 5: Reinforce Good Decisions

In the larger scheme of life, when you undertake a wellness program, you will be faced every day with the choice to stay the course or abandon your mission.


How does your brain make the choice?


Executive control, which means choosing a thought or action to meet an internal goal, is managed by the brain’s prefrontal cortex. The orbitofrontal cortex and amygdala play roles in regulating decision-making based on the memory of feelings. Regions of the midbrain in which the neurotransmitter dopamine is predominant also influence decision-making. Some of the choices that trigger dopamine's release: eating sweet foods, taking drugs, having sex.


We may overindulge in chocolate cake because we tend to value the short-term outcome we know (deliciousness) over the long-term outcome we have never experienced (weight loss and increased energy from better nutrition). One way to break that cycle is to reward ourselves in a different way. Instead of eating cake, we can go play a game or listen to music.


How long does it take to form a new habit? An average of 66 days, according to a 2009 study from University College, London. Repetition and giving yourself time to adjust are the main factors in forming a new behavior pattern.


If you are interested in having a wellness consultation to help set up positive daily habits, contact me and I'd be happy to help you:).




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