By Myra Oney, CHHC, Certified Brain Longevity Specialist
You have almost certainly had this experience.
You make a New Year’s resolution to start going to the gym. You know having a regular exercise routine will make a difference for your body and your brain and have decided that now is the time.
On January 2nd, you present yourself at your local gym and join up. Maybe you work with a trainer for a few sessions, learning how to use all that equipment and getting the routine going. The first couple of months, you’re on a roll and you go four days a week. Then one day, you don’t go. Maybe you don’t have the energy, or there’s a big snowstorm or you’re on vacation. Yet even when the particular obstacle is gone, you don’t go back. Now it’s May, and the nagging voice in the back of your head keeps telling you that you’re getting off track with your resolution. Slowly the voice fades away, even as the monthly gym fees accumulate.
This probably sounds familiar, whether it’s resolving to go to the gym, get better sleep, eat healthier or any number of “better brain habits” that you are trying to make part of your life.
So, why does this happen? And how can you create and maintain habits that stick? While many books have been written about this big topic, here’s one approach to help you get started.
Ask yourself “why?”
Begin by consciously focusing on why you want to make this change and create this new habit. If the reason isn’t clear and meaningful, chances are you won’t stick to it. In the gym example, the idea that “it’s good for me” probably isn’t meaningful enough. But perhaps you remember that the last time you saw your young grandchild, they ran over and held up their arms to be picked up — and you knew you weren’t strong enough to do it. How did you feel about that? Or your friends were going biking for the afternoon, and you didn’t think you had the stamina to join them. Perhaps that was when you decided it was important to you to be someone who is physically strong. Yes, you know that exercise will stave off dementia, but to be able to pick up your grandchild, or go biking with your friends is what’s really meaningful to you.
Who do you want to be?
Even before that first trip to the gym, ask yourself: what does it mean to become someone who is physically strong? What traits does that person have? What habits do you need to build? You are creating a new identity for yourself as a physically strong person, which is a significant process that takes time. This new identity will be the foundation for successfully creating your new gym-going habit and sustaining it over the long term.
Coming soon: “Maintaining a Good Habit!”
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