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Shaping Healthy Habits that Last; Form a Group (video)

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

Have you ever noticed that some people seem to have it so easy? They’re naturally fit, endlessly energetic and unusually happy? Sure it looks effortless now, but we don’t always know the back story. In all likelihood, that person had to take the time and make the commitment to shaping their habits into the healthy, happy version you see today.

If you’re like most people, when life starts to get busy, at least some of your everyday self-care habits begin falling to the wayside. Unfortunately, when we feel overwhelmed, things like sleep, exercise, and healthy eating, are usually the first things we downgrade in terms of priorities.

We try to save time by ditching the very habits we need to enforce when the stress hits the fan. This strategy not only backfires, but it eventually leads to symptoms of depression, like anxiety, sleeplessness and irritability.

Before it comes to this, it’s a good idea to revisit our day to day habits to make sure we’re consistently prioritizing those that best match our personal ideals. And the good news is, there are tips and tricks to make it work for you, beginning with revisiting your everyday habits.

The decision to upgrade your everyday habits is one of best choices you’ll make. This notion also may seem too hard to commit to right now; you may not feel quite ready to get started. Well I’m going to suggest that you push those resisting thoughts aside and start today. I’m challenging you to write down one goal and begin with this sure-fire strategy to keep you going.

Today’s key idea for shaping a health habit that sticks is to form or join a group. Studies show that setting a goal with a partner increases your likelihood of success by about 40%.

This can be a virtual group that connects via your favorite communication medium, a Facebook group, a group that meets for real, or any other version you come up with. The idea is to leverage 3 key of the components of goal setting: planning, accountability and feedback.

Group camaraderie also has real fitness benefits. “Research shows people are more successful at reaching their fitness goals with group support,” says Jean Fain, LICSW, MSW, a Harvard Medical School-affiliated psychotherapist and author of The Self-Compassion Diet: A Step-by-Step Program to Lose Weight with Loving-Kindness. They also have fewer major health problems overall, she notes. Psychologically, social exercise also leads to a greater sense of well-being, better self-esteem, improved body image and less depression.

First step, choose your goal.

Before you go the group route, you get to decide which habit to change, and habit is intentionally singular, because it’s a smart idea to start with one. The answer is different for everyone, but the key habits that have the biggest impact on quality of life are exercise, rest and good nutrition, so it’s highly recommended you choose one of these.
If you’re not currently exercising, this is a perfect new habit to adopt, and a great one to create or join a group around, but even adding habits like committing to 30 days of 8 hours of sleep and see who wants to join you in a Facebook challenge is a great way to participate. Not ready to take on that much initiative? No worries, WebMD offers an online Sleep Disorders Community Support Group you can join.

Is your diet in need of a makeover? Enlist your partner or find a colleague to join you in switching from fast food to cooking at home more -which is also a great way to share new recipes and menu ideas.

Second Step; find your tribe.

Remember, a group of 2 is still a group. The goal is to find people who will challenge, engage and evoke a sense of accomplishment in you, so you may want to prioritize quality over quantity.

Third Step; commit to a schedule.

Whether you meet virtually or in person, be sure to find a time that works for everyone to connect at least once per week. More frequently is better, but too much frequency can be intimidating for time-sensitive people, so adapt your plan based on your audience. The important part here is the accountability factor, which is key to keeping you on track with your goals.

However you decide to work it, forming or joining a group is a great strategy to help you form new habits. So commit to changing one habit that you know you’d be better off with (or without), grab your calendar, and schedule in 10-30 minutes to being implementing your group outreach strategy, starting today!!

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