How to form healthy habits for self-care and 5 habits you should break now
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What are habits and why do we need them?
Habits make you who you are. Building good new and healthy habits is the key to making lasting changes in your lifestyle that will help you to live a happier, healthier, and longer life. Holding onto bad habits, however, might be keeping you back from achieving your goals and really making a difference.
In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the kinds of habits you should be thinking about changing, dropping, and adopting in order to influence your health, and in particular your all-important blood glucose levels. We’ll also see how you can successfully form new habits, and make brand new behaviors seem so natural that they become practically automatic.
What kinds of habits should I be trying to change?
There are six key lifestyle areas – or pillars – that can have a direct effect on your overall health and fitness. These six pillars are healthy eating, movement, sleep, relationships, addictions, and stress.
We can measure the overall impact of lifestyle on your health and fitness by monitoring your blood glucose levels.
What kinds of habits do you already have around these six pillars? Are you in the habit of getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night? Do you struggle to manage stress from your family life or job? Do you smoke or regularly drink alcohol? And if you’re working from home, do you remember to get out and go for a walk in the mornings before you sit down at your computer or in the evenings before you go to bed?
Each of these habits can directly impact your overall health, and this will show up in your blood glucose levels. In the next section, we’ll take a look at five small but surprisingly effective habits that you can adopt to significantly improve your overall health, and stabilize your blood glucose.
5 bad glucose habits that you should break now
Before you build new, healthy habits it’s time to break old ones. Let’s start with the most common habits you should let go. For each habit you should give up we have a smart and healthy alternative prepared for you.
1) Drinking orange juice for breakfast
You may think orange juice is a healthy option, but actually it leaves you with a high sugar intake in the morning. Try to eat a whole piece of fruit with your breakfast. Whole fruits contain much more fiber than blended fruits in juice form. Fiber helps regulate the body’s use of sugars, helping to keep hunger and blood glucose in check.
2) Snacking on chocolate
When you eat sugary things as snacks in the middle of the day, there is a really high chance of this spiking your blood glucose levels. Try to replace it with a savory snack in order to avoid this happening. If you don’t want to cut sweet treats from your day, try to get into the habit of always eating them after you’ve already had a meal as a dessert. The order in which we eat food is crucial for reducing that blood glucose spike.
3) Going on your phone or jumping on a video-call after a meal
If you’ve just had a really heavy meal, the only thing you probably feel like doing is flopping on the sofa and scrolling through your phone while you digest your food. Actually, this is one of the worst habits we have for dealing with post-meal glucose spikes. Get into the habit of taking a short 10-15 minute walk after eating, or doing any light exercise. This will significantly help your body’s cells to absorb the excess glucose in your bloodstream, avoiding a spike.
4) Eating bread and butter as a starter
As we’ve mentioned, the order in which you eat your food is really important for how your body responds in terms of a glucose spike. Starting your meal with bread and butter is one of the worst things you can do for your body! Instead, get into the habit of starting your meal with a light green salad, preferably with an apple cider vinegar dressing to keep your blood glucose levels down.
5) Doing intense exercise before bed
You may prefer working out in the evenings to the morning, but actually doing anything that’s too intense or vigorous risks disrupting your sleep that night. Having a bad night’s sleep is really bad news for your blood glucose, as your body requires that time to rest and recover. Try to get into the habit of exercising in the mornings instead, and if you still feel like doing something before you hit the hay, try a light stretching session.
How long does it take to change a habit?
Turning something into a habit is about consistently making an effort to perform a new behavior until it feels so natural and automatic that you don’t even have to think about it. Each of the habits listed above should be fairly simple to start adopting right away, but successfully making them a habit is really about time.
It can take between 2 and 6 months for a new behavior to become a habit, but most things should start to become more automatic within the third month of doing it.
That means that your first two months of exercising in the morning might feel a bit strange or unnatural, but don’t worry. Stick with it and by the third month of it, you’ll be able to do it with your eyes closed (almost)!
Building healthy habits takes time
If you’re trying to adopt a new habit but struggling, don’t beat yourself up about it. Depending on how dramatic a change it is from your ordinary routine, it could be quite a long time before it becomes second nature. Don’t worry if you occasionally lapse, just remind yourself why you’re trying to make this change and keep it up!
Check out what entrepreneur Lea-Sophie Cramer had to say about how she manages to form new habits, and why she believes 40 is the magic number, over on our Hello Inside Scientific Healthcare Podcast:
How to make new, healthy habits stick
Stack your habits
The key to forming a new habit is to take advantage of the habits you’ve already got. That means stacking your new habit onto an existing one. Many of us are in the habit of starting the day with a nice warm cup of coffee. This can be a great opportunity to remind yourself to take 10 minutes to practice mindfulness, do some stretching, or even learn something new!
Start small and set yourself up for success
Create baby steps towards your new habit by not going too hard and too fast. With exercising, if you hit the gym too hard the first time you risk injuring yourself and not being able to go until you’re recovered. This will really demotivate you and push back any progress goals you’d set.
If your aim is to get into the habit of going to the gym 4-5 times a week, don’t feel you always have to do a heavy workout each time. Just get used to showing up every day, maybe having a light jog on the treadmill, showering, and getting on with your day. Once being at the gym every day starts feeling like a habit, you can start focusing on increasing the intensity of what you do while you’re there. Also, think about changing the easy things first before you take on a bigger challenge. If you’re not in the habit of going to the gym at all, just going once a week to start off with is a really great goal, and will start to warm you up towards more regular visits.
Do it every day
As it takes several months for a new behavior to become a habit, it’s essential that you consistently make an effort to do it whenever you can. That means making sure you do it every day. If you want to get into the habit of starting your meal with a light salad, do it every day. Even better, do it several times a day! Consistency is the key to making a new habit stick.
Make it easy
Try to reduce the number of limiting factors that could stop you from successfully adopting a new habit. What are those pain points that you don’t like? If you want to go to the gym every morning, pack your sports bag the night before and leave it by your door. That means in the foggy haze of the early hours of the morning, you’re asking your body to just get up, grab your bag and go.
You’ll definitely encounter more resistance if you try to get up, find all your things, pack them, and then spend 30 minutes looking for your deodorant can before you realize going to the gym is going to make you late for work. Some people even sleep in their running gear, so when they wake up in the morning they literally only have to put their shoes on before they’re ready to hit the road.
Make yourself accountable
Share your goals with a good friend and ask them to hold you accountable. This means they’ll just need to check in with you now and then and make sure you’re still working towards them and keeping up the good work. When we share the burden of adopting a new habit with a friend, we’re much more likely to succeed.
Let’s be honest, we human beings are fairly impressionable creatures. We’re far more likely to want to do something if we know that there’s an immediate reward attached to it. Tell yourself that if you complete your daily exercise goal, you can watch your favorite series on TV afterward. Or if you want to get to bed every night before 10.30 pm, make yourself a nice warm herbal tea at 10 o’clock as a reward for being on time. These simple bribes help to tide your body over in the time between a new habit seeming strange, unfamiliar and unnatural, and turning into something you do automatically.