top of page

Dr. Karina Smith

How to form new health habits (and 5 tips on how to keep them).

Change is never easy.

Falling into patterns that are familiar and comfortable, on the other hand, is very easy!

It can be very overwhelming to try and form new habits when it comes to our health.

Sometimes when we start examining the areas of our life that are not doing our health any favours, it can feel so huge that we really don't know where to begin. So we don't.

Health habits

Many a time people can get a burst of motivation and decide to do a major overhaul of everything all at once. Rarely have I seen this method succeed.

What I usually see, is a short period of time where people try to change everything all at once, and then as soon as they get tired, triggered, stressed, they slip and the whole endeavour falls down like a house of cards. This can be be devastating in terms of them wanting to try again, and can fuel deep and unhappy narratives about self-worth and body image.

If it were as easy as deciding "I will never have any more doughnuts" to form a new health habit, we would all be reaching our health goals in no time... but it is not that easy.

Because the underlying reason signalling our craving (and then eating of the doughnuts), is what really needs to be examined and supported for us to make changes. And that part of ourselves is often emotional, and woven around some kind of self-limiting belief that drives much of our behaviour without us even realising it.

Here's a few ideas and approaches that could be useful to help you begin to inch a little closer to the new habits you want to form, and to keep them in your life in a sustainable way.

1. It has to work with your schedule and routine.

getting hot and sweaty at the gym running on the treadmill

This is particularly true, if the new habit you are trying to make, is about adding movement or a daily practice into your routine.

This could be a morning walk, going to the gym, meditation, breath work, journalling, or any other kind of practice that you know would be beneficial to do regularly.

I'm not sure about you, but for me, those things have to happen in the morning, or they simply will not happen!

It's one thing to say that you want to start riding your bike more, or going on more walks, but if it were that simple you would probably already be doing these things.

If that movement is functional for your life, aka walking to the shops instead of driving, or commuting to work on your bike instead of catching the train, then you have to do it in order to get to where you need to go, rather than finding extra time to fit this in to your schedule.

It can be useful to take a look at how you usually start your day, and see if it's a possibility to sit down for 10 minutes to do your breath work or meditation before you launch into checking your work emails.

The key here is to be honest with yourself, when you wake up in the morning what are the first things that you do? How quickly are you pulled into the vortex of digital devices and the push pull of demanding emails?

I fully appreciate that those reading this with children may not have any time in the morning that is for them, and that it is somewhat luxurious to have a regular self care practice every morning. Perhaps your time for breath work/meditation is in the evenings?

Tips to try:

  • Can you swap a car drive for a walk or bike ride?

  • Could you keep your phone on flight mode in the mornings until you have had 10-15 minutes to sit quietly and read/journal/meditate?

  • Can you make a few walking dates with a friend who also wants to get moving? (The buddy system works really well in this instance).

2. Can you align the new habit with a goal?

doing up shoes getting ready for a run

We can be really hard on ourselves when trying to make changes to the way we eat.

Maybe you are trying to cut back on sugar, coffee, carbs, wine, cigarettes, whatever it might be! It is not very helpful to just scold yourself when you slip up.

I have found in my work with clients that it creates a much better vibration to first identify goal you want to achieve by cutting back on these habits.

Is it just about losing weight, or is your goal to have more energy or feel stronger in your body?

What would more energy enable you to do with your day that you are currently not experiencing?

Short term goals can make this a lot more achievable. (Rather than the overwhelming thought that you will never at a piece of cake again in your life).

Here is an example of what I am talking about. This is a mantra/affirmation that somebody might say, in that moment where they really want that second coffee, piece of cake, cigarette etc:

"By not having this slice of cake I am giving myself the best opportunity to wake up tomorrow and feel clear, light and energetic. If I feel clear, light and energetic I will have more presence with my kids, and my work, and also with myself"

You can tailor this around your own personal goals and what you want to bring into your life.

This creates a completely different feeling than just putting yourself down for eating the cake.

Tips to try:

  • Can you identify your goals (short term and long term) that you want to move towards in your health?

  • Is it possible to create an uplifting affirmation for yourself to help steer you towards making better choices today?

3. One thing at a time.

black and white one daisy petal being plucked

Making changes is a big deal!

Too much too soon, and the whole attempt can crumble.

The body doesn't love too many changes all at once.

Is it possible to just start with one thing, and give it some time to be implemented, tweaked, adjusted, and experienced?

It might be that you start upping your daily water intake, or cut back to 1 x coffee per day, or start going for brisk 30 minute walk as soon as you wake up.

Whatever it might be, a new change in the routine and diet can be very powerful in lots of ways. Give it some time for you to honour this new change, and also to notice what difference it might be making!

One small change is a great place to start.

When you notice how it is impacting your life, that creates a surge in motivation to keep going! And even though you might have a big list of new habits you want to create, sustainability is all about taking things slowly and mindfully. One thing at a time.

Tips to try:

  • Choose one thing that you want to change about how you are currently doing things.

  • Give yourself check points; 1 x week, 2 x weeks, 1 x month to reflect on how that one change is impacting you.

  • When you feel steady with the first change, slowly pick the next change you would like to make and take the same time with it.

4. Falling off the wagon is part of the journey!

drunk dog wearing red sunglasses holding champagne bottle

There comes a point in the journey where the way that you feel, outweighs the old habit:

  • Going to bed early and waking up fresh and energetic vs being out late with friends drinking.

  • Feeling light and not bloated in the belly, vs eating foods with gluten.

  • Having time in meditation to wash out your brain vs letting the whole day overtake you and your brain space.

  • Feeling more emotionally stable vs riding the high and lows of a high sugar diet.

I'm sure you could write your own fantastic list here.

However, sometimes you need to have a really big boozy night out, or you need to overeat, eat all the gluten and dairy, or maybe even text your ex to remind you of how awful it makes you feel, so that you can make better future choices for your lifestyle.

So if it feels like you have taken 10 steps backwards in your new amazing habits, try and give yourself some breathing room to reflect on how it has made you feel.

Can you let it strengthen your resolve?

It could be an important milestone for you to clarify what kinds of habits make you feel great, and what habits no longer serve you.

Tips to try:

  • Don't be too hard on yourself if an old habit creeps in.

  • Can you offer yourself more reflection rather than critique on how it has made you feel?

  • Can you use it a springboard to get back to practices and habits that you have just proven to yourself make you feel much better?

5. Get some support.

two men camping drinking water

Knowing that somebody has your back when you are working on yourself can be a huge help with sticking to your new habits.

It's no wonder that in certain self-development programs you get a sponsor!

A sponsor is not a bad idea to be honest. This might be a friend, or relative that you can share your progress with. Or someone you can check in with when you are not feeling very strong, and get a boost to help relight your motivation.

You may even have a friend who is at a similar place to you; wanting to make changes and forge new habits and you can provide some gentle accountability to one another. They may even want to weave their goals in with yours; meeting up for a walk or run for example.

Being hard on yourself just adds more pressure to the situation.

Tips to try:

  • Reach out to someone that you trust and let them know what changes you are making.

  • Keep your ears and heart open for someone who wants to get on board and make some plans to exercise together.

  • Be mindful of being too tough on yourself with inner critique dialogue.

And above all else, be gentle with yourself as you feel these changes taking root into your life. Healing and change never occur on a perfectly straight line!

I hope that this was helpful for you.

Love Karina x

bottom of page