Is Creating Healthy Habits Really About Motivation?
You’ve heard that creating habits takes 21 days, but newer research says it actually takes closer to 66 days, while it can take anywhere from 18-254 days to break one. The good news is that if you can maintain a habit for at least two months, it’ll be one you keep without having to think about it.
It takes much longer to break a habit than it does to create one, especially if it’s not replaced with an alternative behavior. Habits are automatically triggered and account for roughly 40% of your daily behaviors. With this in mind, it’s best to replace habits with those more aligned with your goals rather than trying to just get rid of them. In order to do this, you have to make consistent, conscious choices to engage with your desired behavior rather than the one that is automatically performed.
Changing habits takes discipline, but perhaps more than that, it requires a change in your environment to reduce your triggers.
A six month study published in the American Journal of Public Health showed that environment actually outweighs motivation when it comes to making healthier choices. In this specific study, rearranging the dining area to make healthy choices more accessible,resulted in participants choosing the healthier option without realizing it.
Why? Because it was more convenient than the unhealthy option.
This study indicates the importance of what is referred to as “default decisions”, or the decisions you make out of convenience. James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, shares that you make decisions based on your environment and your laziness, so to be successful in changing your habits, you need to “design for default”.
Think about it like this: if you bring your phone into the bedroom at night, then scrolling through instagram when you first wake up is likely to be the default decision. If you keep your KOS Show Me the Greens on the counter, drinking a daily scoop will most likely be the default decision. If you keep a water bottle with you throughout the day, drinking water instead of soda is most likely going to be the default decision. You’ve made the healthier option more convenient, or more accessible.
If you’re wondering, ‘how do I make my default decisions more supportive of my goals?’ Start by simplifying your surroundings.
It’s much harder to eat junk food after a stressful day when it’s not in your house. The likelihood that you will get in your car to go get Doritos decreases because it’s not easier than eating the apple on the counter.
It’s also easier to spend the first 30 minutes of your day writing in your gratitude journal if your journal is on your nightstand instead of your phone.
Shift your environment to make your healthy behaviors easier and your unhealthy ones harder. The more steps you can put between yourself and the habits you want to break, the easier it will be.
Additionally, set yourself up for success by putting alternatives that align with your desired habits in your environment.
If you think about your goals for this year… or even just for this week. Maybe it’s to not snack at night in front of the TV. Or maybe it’s to reduce the amount of processed foods, or to eat more green vegetables, or to exercise for 30 minutes on weekdays. Whatever it is for you, determine ways you can replace your current habits with healthier ones.
We talked about it last week with the example of cutting out soda. If you’ve been drinking a soda every morning on your way to work for 6 years, making your goal to just not drink soda is setting you up to fail. Instead, you need to find a healthier alternative to replace your soda habit.
The same applies to some of the other goals we mentioned above.
- If your goal is to not snack in front of the TV, you need to replace that action with something healthier, such as lifting weights, knitting, doing a puzzle, etc.
- If your goal is to consume less processed foods, make the healthier choice more accessible by re-organizing your pantry so unhealthy options aren’t visible, putting your KOS protein powder on the counter so it’s the first thing you see when you’re looking for something to eat, swap out the chocolates in your entryway for nuts, or find healthy alternatives to some of your favorite recipes in the KOS Kitchen
- If your goal is to attend your gym’s cycle class 3 days a week, sign up for those classes ahead of time so it’ll require more effort to convince yourself not to go, invite a friend so you have accountability to show up, or put your gym clothes out the night before so they’re convenient for you to put on. (Tip: If you’re on the fence about going for a workout, getting dressed in gym clothes increases the chance you’ll follow through because you’re already ready to go and it’ll be more work to convince yourself not to!)
Focus on finding alternatives that allow you to ‘have your cake and eat it (healthier) too! When you’re craving chocolate, check out this Black Forest Cake Shake or this Chocolatey Chip Banana Bread for a more nutrient-dense way to satisfy your cravings.
In the mood for a refreshing, sparkling energy drink? Mix 1 scoop Love You Berry Much with your favorite flavor of sparkling water and some ice or a splash of pineapple juice and San Pellegrino.
If you’re needing something for on-the-go, whip up a batch of these Almond Coconut Chewy Bars for a healthier alternative to the high sugar granola bars lining the shelves at your local grocery store.
Reaching your goals doesn’t have to be a journey of deprivation! By making the healthier choice more convenient, you’ll increase the chances you’ll follow through. Remember what James Clear shared: your default decisions need to align with your goals, so shift your environment to make your desired habits easier and more accessible.
Our nutrient-dense superfoods, picked from nature, deliver wholesome nutrients in less than 5 minutes! The best nutrition is simple and here at KOS we’re on a mission to offer you quality plant-based nourishment that fits into any lifestyle to promote overall health, while positively impacting our planet.