The Key to Behavior Change-Create Tiny Habits

 

Create tiny habits every day to reach your desired goal.

It’s a given that we cling to what we’re familiar with, and change is very hard. If only you could change your behavior, reach your big goal and lose that last 10 pounds.

There are multiple tales of accidents in the Himalayas when the warmth of the snow was so inviting to the victim that they simply wanted to stay resting where they were, comfortable in the snow. Getting up, and walking around shaking out their limbs to warm up would save their life, yet they don’t, and die there in the snow. We cling to what’s comfortable. Though I’m not suggesting camping out in your backyard to test your winter survival skills, you needn’t feel like you can’t change. For instance, if weight loss is your goal, you don’t have to just wish you had more willpower.

You aren’t alone in feeling like another trendy diet might be too hard to stick with, as research shows that fewer than 5 percent of dieters can keep weight off. Keep it simple. For long-term health behavior change, learning a skill, a new tactic, can help you succeed in your goals. Acquiring a new skill is a breakthrough as it becomes an action that creates change. And that action can be as simple as saying, “No dessert tonight,” rather than saying, “Stop eating sugar.” When you take that newly acquired skill and change it into a habit, you can gain an increased ability to change. What if you took tiny steps, and were able to build those steps into your life to meet your biggest challenges?

Shrink the problem

Don’t blame your willpower or motivation if you want to create new behaviors in your life. In many cases, you need a skill to fix things. B.J. Fogg, a behavior scientist at Stanford University, brilliantly describes this as a “skill scan.” The above-mentioned “stop eating sugar” is a principle, and ultimately not very helpful over time. Saying “No dessert tonight” is an action. Take four minutes to do the skill scan.

Step 1—Set a timer, and write down every skill you can think of that you might need to accomplish what you want. Let’s say the problem is fat loss, and you’ve listed eat less, move more, eat clean, stop eating sugar and go gluten-free.

Step 2—Take a colored pencil and cross off anything that you wrote that is not an action that can go on a calendar. On my fat-loss list, all of my skills are principles. These principles are a tall order to fit in the real world, especially during the holidays. If you wrote, for example, “Don’t have bread with dinner,” you now have a viable, simple action. No bread with dinner. Fogg’s approach eliminates guilt and feeling bad about why you don’t have enough willpower. Instead, this approach shrinks the problem, by giving you a new skill, which over time, becomes a desired habit.

Step 3—Write down your new habit that you want to build into your life. Fogg’s favorite example is to ask his students to floss just one tooth, a perfect example of building tiny habits into your daily life.

 Step 4—Celebrate your success in a healthy way. Be proud of your accomplishments, as change is as natural as our world is.

Wishing you a wonderful Christmas filled with happiness, hope and joy!

Published in the Idaho Mountain Express, December 22, 2017

http://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_8c5e8a6a-e69b-11e7-915c-6bdb90b24b3e.html

Are fitness trackers motivating ?

Fitness trackers can be a good tool for helping you move more.

The Fitbit is sleek and novel, as are many of the new fitness trackers and apps, such as the Adidas or Human App, with gorgeous images, charts, and graphics. What’s not to like being called a hero for walking 30 minutes? Graphs and feedback in fitness trackers are fun and motivational. This year, activity trackers and wearable’s retained their number one ranking by the American College of Sports Medicine’s Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends, and an estimated 485 million wearable devices will be in the market by 2018. But do they really make a difference in terms of long-term lifestyle change?

As with any new trend, going way back to Jane Fonda workout videos, Cooper Aerobics, Jim Fixx and running, or today’s P90X, the initial novelty wears off. Dr. Michelle Segar, Ph.D., a motivational scientist at the University of Michigan’s Sport, Health, and Activity Research Center says that they are still just tools, not the holy grail of motivation. Yes, some people love graphs and charts, but it is your relationship with physical activity that counts in the long run. Is exercise a chore, or a gift?

Studies are mixed and ongoing in showing how effective tracking apps are to help people lose weight. Research shows that only some types of trackers can help. For instance, a study of inactive postmenopausal women found that a standard pedometer didn’t help increase their activity, while the Fitbit did. Another study published in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology showed participants increased their physical activity by 16 minutes per week. However, by 6 months, 40% of the participants stopped wearing their devices, and at the year’s end, only 10 % of them were still wearing them.

The Right Why

If only a small percentage of people wear trackers after a year, where is the missing motivational link? Human nature dictates that we all want to have positive experiences and ownership of our behavior. Is your underlying reason why you would want to include more exercise is because your doctor said so, or societal pressures to be thin? When I set up exercise programs for new clients, I always ask what is the specific number one goal that they want to achieve. Your reason for initiating a behavior change has to be compelling enough that you would want it in your life. Feel better. Have more energy. Be in a better mood. All these reasons have a domino effect and can positively influence your motivation, says Dr. Segar. In her book No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness, Dr. Segar points out that physical activity that is enjoyable and makes people feel good right now is more motivating than a noble far-off goal such as “ better health “. When you focus on an immediate pleasure, like an evening walk around your neighborhood, moving more then becomes a gift. This is what Dr. Segar calls the right why.

When you enjoy something and do it willingly, you are highly motivated, autonomous. Within this theory, you’ve created a sense of ownership. Regarding exercising, you also develop a sense of self-care. The rewards are instant- perhaps your headache is gone, or feel better for doing some stretching. By taking these little steps, you reinforce the rewards of being more active. The brain begins to associate sweat with a surge of endorphins- those feel-good chemicals. Keep using your tracker. It’s a good partnership for staying motivated.

Published in the Idaho Mountain Express July 25, 2017

http://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_5421f864-7312-11e7-afcb-dff831782410.html

 

 

In Health, Small Changes Count

Regarding your health, small changes matter.

Popping up into a handstand  is easy. All you need is straight strong arms and  up  you  go. I used to do them easily. But then I developed chronic nerve pain in one of my legs, and going up was out of the question. I avoided them for years in yoga class. When my symptoms healed and  it was time to go up, fear took over. All I could think of  was buckling, which I did, again and again. In  Fierce Medicine, author and yoga pioneer Ana Forrest  writes about a Brave-Hearted Path. What if we became the hunter, and tracked down our fear, to turn from prey to predator? What if we let go of the old stories that hold us back and make a very small change? For most of us, small changes are realistic and attainable. The next time I tried a handstand, I tracked down the fear, (Have fun!) and up I popped, exhilarated! All it took was one small change in a very brief amount of time. When it comes to your health, tiny steps can help change a laundry list of habits.

Four Real New Year’s Resolutions

Access  Readiness.

Motivation has to come from within. Ask yourself what is the real objective you are after. Keep asking “why”. Uncovering the real reason of saying “I want to lose weight”, with further prodding, might really be that you want to have more energy and not miss out on hiking in the Pioneers next spring with friends.

Set your intent

Instead of waking up, tossing some coffee down our throats  and  rush  headlong into our day, Forrest suggests that you  set your intent, and not  make it overwhelming. Make one change that appeals most to you. If you are tired of a stiff neck from sitting at your computer, you might add 10   big shoulder rolls in each direction every hour you spend at your desk that day. Schedule a long overdue massage. If it’s out of control eating that bothers you, promise yourself to sit at the table every time you eat.

Small Enough Steps

Everyone knows it’s a good idea to park your car further away from where you need to be. Not only are the extra steps good for you, but it is also a time when you can take notice of the day. For those few moments, appreciate the environment you live in, the sun, or even the lack of traffic that day, and be grateful for that. Instead of feeling guilty about not getting on the treadmill for an hour, try just 10 minutes. You’ll be energized by the effort, and may even stay on it longer that you’d thought you would.

Nip an Unhealthy Habit in the Bud

As you strive to make health-enhancing resolutions materialize, Edward Philips, editor of the Harvard Health School Report, recommends taking a good look at any unhealthy habits that you can’t seem to shake. A daily diet of cookies for lunch could wreck havoc on your energy later in the day. Likewise, excessive amounts of time surfing online, for example, can leave you less opportunity to engage in healthier pursuits, such as deepening social ties, or a walk.

Your day to day choices, no matter if it’s practicing handstands or healthier eating, all count to help  bring vitality and well-being in the New Year. Happy holidays!

Connie Aronson ACSM Fitness Specialist located at the YMCA in Ketchum, Idaho.