3 effective strategies for developing a sustainable healthy lifestyle habit

By Jurassic JennApr 16, 2024 14:39 PMHealth
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3 effective strategies for developing a sustainable healthy lifestyle
3 effective strategies for developing a sustainable healthy lifestyle. Source: www.healthline.com

It's a familiar scene at the beginning of the year. You've made a commitment to a healthier lifestyle and are determined that this time around, things will be different. From now on, your fridge is filled with fruits and vegetables, there are no more processed foods, and your fitness regimen is planned out in every detail.

"However," writes SSPDaily, "when you leave the house, the street greets you with the alluring aroma of fresh donuts, and all the grandiose plans suddenly seem less important. How can you resist the urge to return to your bad but enjoyable habits and move toward the goal you set for yourself just yesterday?"

Old strategies don't work?

Conventional wisdom, based on years of research, says that the best way to resist unhealthy choices is to think about the long-term consequences. For example, that sugar in donuts can lead to diabetes and obesity. Such reflections should theoretically help you avoid temptation right now and help you persevere in the future.

However, over the years of studying people's self-control and motivation, psychologists have found that in the heat of the moment, long-term consequences are not important to people, which significantly reduces the effectiveness of such strategies.

Instead, experts offer 3 modern approaches to help you develop healthy habits.

Think short-term to avoid temptation

One strategy to avoid indulgence is to think about the short-term consequences of unhealthy behavior.

For example, in one study, students were asked to watch one of two commercials that detailed the reasons for not consuming energy drinks. One of them emphasized the long-term consequences of consuming energy drinks with high sugar content, such as diabetes and obesity. The other emphasized the short-term costs, such as anxiety and a sharp drop in sugar and caffeine levels.

Then the participants were offered a choice: to receive an energy drink or another attractive prize. The result: those who read about short-term problems were 25% less likely to choose the energy drink than those who read about long-term problems.

Studies have also shown that focusing on the short term helps to avoid other temptations. For example, when it comes to alcohol, you can think about poor sleep and hangovers, and if you want to buy a hamburger, imagine bloating or indigestion.

In general, the immediate effect proved to be a stronger motivator than the long-term effects that can last for decades. The conclusion is simple: in order not to indulge yourself, think about the short term more often.

Focus on enjoying healthy foods

Avoiding junk food is one thing, but pushing yourself to eat more healthy foods is another. Experiments in this area have shown that encouraging people to focus on the pleasant taste rather than the abstract health benefits significantly increases their consumption.

This method can also promote other healthy behaviors, such as exercise habits. For example, in one study, gym-goers were asked to choose a workout with loads from a list of equally challenging exercises. Participants who were instructed to choose a fun exercise performed more repetitions than those who were told to choose the exercise that was most beneficial to their long-term fitness goals.

The immediate rewards that come from achieving long-term goals make you feel better right now, although they often go unnoticed. For this reason, focusing on the immediate and delayed benefits of behaviors such as healthy eating and exercise increases intrinsic motivation by creating a sense of reward and inducing a so-called "flow".

Timing the rewards

Starting your Healthy Behavior Project is one piece of the puzzle; the other is keeping the habit going over time. And in this regard, an effective strategy - "Using Rewards to Maintain Adherence" - will help you.

In particular, studies have shown that small, regular rewards are more effective in building long-term commitment to healthy behaviors such as exercise and flossing than large, episodic rewards.

Example. Consider watching 20 minutes of an enjoyable TV show every day you exercise, rather than waiting until the end of the week to watch it in its entirety and reward yourself for four workouts at once.

However, there is one caveat here: rewarding too early can backfire. It seems that rewards are most effective when people have to work to get them, and then they become regular.

In other words, the most effective way to structure rewards is to add initial effort but no reward, followed by small, ongoing rewards.

Conclusion

Thus, the study of the problem of resisting temptations when transitioning to a healthy lifestyle has revealed 3 effective techniques to help you quickly achieve your goals.

They are:

  • prioritizing short-term consequences to avoid temptation;
  • enjoyment of long-term choices:
  • constantly rewarding yourself for perseverance.

The good thing about these strategies is that you can use them in any area. For example, if you're having a hard time swapping social media for a book, think about the negative short-term effects of endless scrolling. Or if taking time to relax seems challenging, focus on the immediate benefits of meditation exercises.

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