Tips to Create New Habits (without relying on willpower)

Tips to Create New Habits (without relying on willpower)

By Maura Rodgers, RD, CHC

I gave a talk recently on the keys to building habits that last. A few of the audience members were surprised when I mentioned that successful habits are built around systems, not necessarily goals.

In other words, if the intention is to eat more veggies but there isn’t a specific plan in place to follow through with this consistently, this goal can fizzle out pretty quickly.

As a Dietitian, my job isn’t just to fangirl over how nutritious kale is… it’s to help my clients find the most streamlined, repeatable and enjoyable way for them to get that nutritious food into their precious bodies, which is where the power of habit comes into play.

So what are habits? They are behaviors you do so regularly that they become automatic (they don’t require as much critical thinking from your brain). They shape the majority of our lives – from our health status to our productivity and self-esteem.

Here are a few of my favorite health habit tips (thanks to some valuable expertise from James Clear and Charles Duhigg):

Create the environment & systems for you to be successful

  • If you want to start sleeping better, you need cues to make that deep sleep become easier. This includes setting a reminder an hour before bed to wind down from a busy day, or committing to earlier dinners, etc.  Other environmental factors to consider: Who do you socialize with? What influence do they have over you?  What do you keep in your kitchen? How can you shift your environment to support your habit(s)?

Habit stack

  • Setting the intention to begin meditating can feel a bit obscure for some. However, if you ‘stack’ a new habit right after something that feels very familiar (like brushing your teeth) this triggers you to follow through with this new habit.

Reduce friction wherever you can

  • Creating new habits will likely lead to some discomfort in some way, but in general we want to choose the path of least resistance when we set out to create sustainable habits. This means choosing the path that requires the least amount of motivation (ie. easiest) yet yields the greatest consistency.

Avoid relying on grit or willpower

  • If you hate running on the treadmill, find another way to move your body that is more aligned with your strengths and interests to avoid feeling like you’re forcing something each time.

Some final reflective questions:

  • What is the cost of not starting this new habit today?
  • What would your life look like if you mastered this habit the way you have other habits?

It really boils down to starting. This is more important than feeling pressured to master your habit quickly. Then troubleshoot when things feel hard and bounce back to it as quickly as possible. If you’re looking for extra support in building healthier eating, exercise, sleep or wellness habits schedule your nutrition consultation with the front desk!

Email Us
Call Us