By: John Lavey | Hammock President/COO

Whether or not you make New Year’s resolutions, we likely all could stand to change a habit or two when it comes to our health. Most of us know what we have to do, but we don’t always know how to make the change.

Changing habits is an important topic not only for those of us who want to improve our health, but also for those of us involved in creating content to encourage patients to become healthier.

A New York Times article this week highlighted what science says about how we can change habits. Here are some of the key takeaways:

  1. Choose a theme. Instead of picking one habit to change, choose a new overarching intention. If one habit doesn’t stick, find other ways to accomplish your goal.

  2. Don’t “break” bad habits—transform them. Figure out cues and rewards for why you do the things you do (like late night snacking) and find new cues and rewards to replace the unhealthy behavior. This takes patience as you’ll have to experiment to find what works best.

  3. Small steps. A new book called Atomic Habits highlights how small, two-minute actions done consistently can start to create new habits, whether it’s meditation, exercise or learning something new, like how to lift weights or play a new sport.

  4. Name the reward that brings immediate positive associations. It’s counterproductive to treat yourself with a cheeseburger everytime you complete a workout, but maybe replace that physical reward by speaking out loud about renewed energy or telling a friend how much pride you feel in getting to the gym three times this week.

  5. Change the environment. There is a lot to be said for eliminating temptations, like taking social media apps off your phone or keeping treats out of your pantry. But you’ll also want to spend time with people who are more likely to motivate you toward your goals.

  6. Plan for failure. The question isn’t whether you are going to slip up on your plans for getting healthier, it’s when. Make a plan for how to pick back up and keep going after you fail.

  7. Celebrate. Creating positive associations around something you are doing differently can change the way you feel about the work you’ve already done.

Takeaway: Changing habits means undertaking a new process, not committing to a one-time action. This is important skill for you personally and in your work encouraging others to be healthier.

Photo | Getty images

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