Wellness Wednesday #8 – Health as a Habit

Blogging has been something lately that has been put on the back burner. I’m currently reading a book by Rachel Hollis (see a future Fave Reads Friday post) that reminded me that if this is something that makes me happy, it should be a priority in my life. So, just like I’m working on making my training more of a priority, so too will the blog be again. I’m going off course today and not talking specifically about one of the 12 Dimensions of Wellness, but rather one of my favorite topics: HABITS.

In March and April I did a fair amount of traveling and decided to FINALLY read some of the Fitness Journals that I had accumulated. The June 2018 issue was talking a lot about Behavior Change (another favorite topic of mine) and had a little side article entitled Health as a Habit which referenced a 2012 study by Gardner, Lally, & Wardle. In the article they describe three phases of habit formation: Initiation, Learning, and Stability.

Initiation

This is when you’re deciding that you want to change some behavior you already have. All of the students at UNCW in our program do a Wellness Vision Plan at the end of the semester. In this we ask them to envision themselves living life to the fullest and what qualities they would have in whole-person wellness. A lot of students miss the mark here and write about the things they hope to do like get a great job, get away from college, get married, travel, all that normal hopes and dreams stuff. Some of them really get the idea and list things like being a person who is compassionate, full of energy, open to new ideas, creative, loving, kind, strong, healthy, etc.

The next question on their assignment is to tell us why they want to be that way. The answer is almost always the same: To Be Happy. Happiness and Habits always seem to go hand in hand in the things I read…..just look at all of the Gretchen Rubin I’ve written about. I think that all decisions about a habit stem from the fact that we’re not happy with something we’re doing or not doing. Happiness seems like it’s just one change away. And, in some cases it may be.

I’m currently in the process of formulating my own list of changes that I’d like to make. I’m going through Initiation by reading this new book and I plan to create my own Wellness Vision Plan in the near future.

Learning

Learning is all about when the activities you’ve outlined start to become habitual. Rubin suggests that if something is worth doing, you do it every day. This is part of my Summer Fitness Plan and something I’ve been working on for awhile in getting used to using my planner regularly. Learning starts with Goal Setting and the preparing Action Steps. This is another big part of the Wellness Vision Plan the students have to create. Unfortunately most of them miss the purpose of this part of the exercise.

We encourage them to use SMART goals, but they tend to go toward the generalized and vague terms. They often lack time frames to complete their goals. Many of the action steps fail to require action. Therefore, I am pretty sure that a lot of the habits never get formed.

But habits don’t get formed for other reasons too. Sometimes you say you want to do something, but it’s not what truly makes you HAPPY! I have, MANY TIMES, said I was going to change something about myself….and then didn’t. Because whatever it was that I was attempting to commit to wasn’t going to stick because I didn’t want it enough. My heart wasn’t in it and therefore I gave up easily. Part of the learning process is to learn what is and isn’t going to work for you. Habits are not formed overnight or in 21 days or even necessarily within 2 months (as the article suggests is minimum). They take time and effort and a change in attitude to recognize what it is that you truly want.

Stability

This is when the habit continues for all eternity…or until you decide to change it. As I sit here writing, I wonder what habits I have formed intentionally over time? I wish I could write down a giant list and say I was so successful at this, this, and this. However much I dislike the word, I would guess that putting my “health” as a priority has been my most stable habit. What that looks like may change from day to day and year to year, but the overall arching theme of my life is to be well and healthy.

Tips

One habit I have formed is to sit on my stability ball every time I work at my desk…..mostly because I got rid of the chair and I don’t have another option. This allows me to work on posture, balance, and core strength when I otherwise would not.

The article ends with six tips for helping habits form.

My decision to make health a priority started when I was younger and continues today because I did some things right. I made a firm decision that I wasn’t going to let my family’s health issues become my health issues (Identified motivational factors). I have chosen to avoid certain things like smoking, eating fried foods in excess, drinking a lot of soda or alcohol, sitting for too long. I’ve also chosen to do certain things like exercise regularly, choose a career that promotes health, eat somewhat vegetarian, seek therapy when necessary, etc. I’ve adjusted along the way like when I was pregnant and am a perpetual learner (Established goals and milestones). I keep working hard on my behaviors by surrounding myself with the environment and people who also promote my lifestyle (Create the cue and reward). Each facet of my life asks me to take control of my destiny and to do something (Pick a goal-oriented behavior) and I keep re-evaluating as I go along (Eliminate disruptions and Follow-up).

Next week I am going to share a video of the Chipper workout I’m working on and then I’ll be back with a Wellness Wednesday post about the Stages of Change Model. In the mean time….

How is health your habit?

Which of your habits are still in initiation or learning?

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