[Photo credit: Allan Ajifo]
Creating a new habit is the basis of changing a behaviour. Whether you want to lose weight, quit smoking or start exercising, you need to form new habits. Understand why you find it hard to stay motivated after just four weeks and follow this extremely simple routine to create any new habit.
This makes it harder to stop exercising when it’s a habit and a reason why people who exercise regularly, feel the need to exercise on a regular basis.
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This routine is based on making regular morning exercise a habit and can be used to create a new habit for any behaviour.
I help a lot of people lose weight and tone up. The one thing they all have in common when they start is enthusiasm, with a hint of uncertainty. All behaviours are driven by a desire to move away from pain and toward pleasure. It’s easy to start exercising when you’ve created enough pain to drive a change in behaviour. It’s not so easy to maintain it though.
If you want to be successful at weight loss, you must create a series of new habits. There are several key times on your journey that offer challenges to your success.
The first challenge is day two. After your first session, you will probably feel sore the next day and possibly two more days after that. The best thing to do is back up and exercise the very next day. It shouldn’t be too intense but do something, even if it’s just stretching.
The next challenge is week two. After your first week of exercise, you will probably feel tired. The new routine of regular exercise will be catching up with you. It’s now even more important that you get nine hours of sleep each night and eat vegetables with every main meal.
Week four presents the next challenge. Your body is physiologically rejecting exercise. From a cellular level, your body is struggling to come to terms with the new ratio of neurotransmitters flooding the nervous system.
Each nerve cell has a certain number of specific receptor sites, which accepts neurotransmitters, across the synaptic cleft, from the nerve cell before. As exercise releases serotonin, dopamine and endorphins, there are now a greater abundance of these neurotransmitters being passed along your nervous system. The receiving nerve cells can’t absorb them all and they shake in the process. People often interpret this shaking as, ‘it doesn’t feel right’, ‘exercise isn’t for me’, ‘I feel funny’. If only they pushed through at this point, they would find that they have overcome the first big obstacle when it comes to making regular exercise a habit. The receiving nerve cell increases it’s number of serotonin, dopamine and endorphin receptor sites and becomes accustomed to this new ratio of neurotransmitters. This makes it harder to stop exercising when it’s a habit and a reason why people who exercise regularly, feel the need to exercise on a regular basis.
To create a new habit from scratch, start small and build up:
Start with the most foundational action and build upon it to generate momentum.
- Set your alarm.
On day one, when your alarm goes off, turn it off. You’re not getting up but waking up. You’re creating the first step in the belief that it’s time for exercise.
- Get up.
On day two, when your alarm goes off, get up. Walk around for a bit and then you have permission to go back to bed. Just getting out of bed can be the hardest part. This will reinforce the previous step and add to it.
- Get dressed.
On day three, when your alarm goes off and you’ve gotten out of bed; get dressed in your exercise attire. Again, walk around for a bit and then you have permission to go back to bed. At this point, you still haven’t even left the bedroom.
- Walk outside.
On day four, when your alarm goes off, you’ve gotten out of bed and you’re dressed; walk outside. You don’t need to leave the house and once again, you have permission to go back to bed. You are building upon the step before to generate momentum.
- Leave the house.
On day five, when your alarm goes off, you’ve gotten out of bed, dressed yourself and walked outside; leave the house. Go to the place where you will be exercising, whether that’s a gym or outdoor group. If you’re walking or running with a friend, travel to that friend’s house. You still aren’t exercising yet; just going to the place where you will. If you feel the urge to exercise, awesome, go for it! However, you still have permission to go home and back to bed.
On day six, when your alarm goes off, you’ve gotten out of bed, dressed yourself, walked outside and gone to your meeting place; do your exercise. Well done! You have generated a lot of momentum, which will make it easier for you to maintain your new habit. This will enhance the likelihood of you continuing when your muscles feel sore after your first workout, you feel tired after your first week, and you’re struggling with commitment after four weeks.
It is recommended that you follow this routine with your workouts as well. For example, on day six when you start exercising, you might only do the warm up. On day seven you might do a warm up plus ten minutes of low intensity exercise. On day eight you might do a warm up with twenty minutes of low intensity exercise, and so on. Ensure you follow the same principals in your exercise routine as you did in your initial habit forming routine. Use the power of momentum to build your new habit.
Remember what is going on inside your body at the cellular level the next time you are in the early stages of any new habit. Accept that your body is changing at a cellular level in order to create the new life that you desire. Set goals around those three key points in time when creating a new habit. Always start with the most foundational action and build from there. This is how you build momentum and longevity.
What’s the most foundational action you can do to form a new habit? Let me know in the comments below.
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