How to Create Healthier Movement Habits for the New Year
Create one new habit at a time. Pace yourself.
As we age, it’s easy to stop moving as often as we did when we were younger. Especially if we are experiencing chronic pain. Moving less may seem like the obvious solution.
But not moving is not the answer. Moving well, taking baby steps, is. When your body starts to move well, it will start to welcome and long for movement. And then, you are on your way to a healthy movement lifestyle.
You may currently have the habit of moving as little as possible. Modern conveniences and inventions and our busy lifestyles support this habit.
It’s the beginning of a New Year. Your New Year resolutions may include the desire to move better or move more. I am here to cheer you on. You can do this, one new habit at a time.
Here are 8 tips to help you create a new, healthy movement habit.
Caveat: Do not start your new habit challenge if there is a big distraction on the scene. Your journey should feel like an adventure, not an obligation.
- Choose a New Behavior
To begin, find one new movement pattern than you can repeat every day. That will make a difference in the quality of your life. Write it down. “I want to include [calf raises] in my everyday behavior without thinking about it”. Contact me if you need help choosing a new behavior.
- Identify Its Reward
Describe in writing the rewards you expect from creating your new habit. Fill a page. Keep it nearby as a reference and an inspiration.
Your habit doesn't stand alone in your brain.
- Attach it Into an Existing Habit
Attach your new behavior to an existing habit or pattern or time of day that will act as a cue for you. For example, add it to your morning routine. Stretch your [calves] while you are brushing your teeth in the morning. Don’t wait for some “free time.” You will always find something else to do.
A habit doesn’t stand alone in your brain. It is woven in with and supported by a whole network of other behaviors. Other suggestions for weaving a new behavior with an existing habit, pattern, or time of day:
- Sit on the floor instead of a chair
- Side-bend at the bus stop
- Circle your ankles when seated
- Balance on one foot in the grocery store line
- Stretch your shoulders in a doorway
- Repeat Every day
Repeat your new behavior every day. Morning is better.
Willpower is less involved in creating a new habit than science. Repeat the new behavior enough times for it to become ingrained and embedded in your brain.
How long will it take? Science says it will take 66 days, more or less, depending on the individual and the situation. At some point, the brain moves a repeated behavior from thinking to non-thinking (habit). It does this to free up space in the thinking side of the brain for more creative activity. Repetition is your friend!
- Ask a Friend to Join You
Invite your friends and family to join you. You can support and inspire each other. (But keep going even if they don’t.)
- Track Your Progress
Record your progress each day. Keep a journal if you like journaling.
Pay attention to what feels good. It will grow.
- Notice the Feel Good
Each time your practice your new behavior, focus on how good it feels. And think of your rewards list. This will help keep you going. What you pay attention to grows bigger. It’s the law of attraction.
Tell yourself, “I can do this.” “I am very good at this.” “I feel good when I do this.” “This is easy for me.” “This is fun.” “I am already reaping the benefits of this.” Say what is true for you right now. Loving, supportive self-talk will create a bridge to your destination.
- Keep Going
If you miss a day, keep going. If you miss a lot of days, start over. If after 30 days your behavior is not yet an involuntary habit, start the 30 days again. Keep going until your new behavior because inevitable and habitual.
When your new habit becomes habitual, pat yourself on the back. Then choose another behavior and repeat this process. Soon you will be moving like a boss.
In truth, we are the sum of our habits. We have thousands and thousands of them. We are also the sum of our movement habits. They make up our movement lifestyle. If we hurt when we move, we need to change the way we move. But the solution isn’t to start with a big goal or a big project. We need to make baby steps back to healthy movement, one new habit at a time.