3 tips for building healthy habits, according to a psychiatrist

It’s hard to argue with the benefits of following healthy habits. Personally, I’m at my best when it comes to scheduling (and prepping) a 6 a.m. barre class, preparing a healthy breakfast, and keeping a consistent bedtime. Mark our lives with habits that make it easy for us to do the things that make us feel strong and supported. Habits help us stay grounded, focused, and committed to our goals. If you’ve asked yourself the elusive question How to follow a routine? You’re in good company — and you’ve come to the right place for game-changing answers.

Jud Brewer, MD, Ph.D., has spent 20 years delving into the science behind habit change. As a neuroscientist, addiction psychiatrist, and New York Times best-selling author of Uncomfortable worryhe combines passion with practice, helping individuals make lasting, meaningful change in their lives for the better.

With that background and scope, I knew I had to get in touch. Earlier, Dr. Brewer shared insights into the importance of forming healthy habits, the #1 secret to keeping them, and why willpower is perhaps the biggest myth about mental health. God. A healthier, happier life awaits.

Featured image of Michelle Nash.

What are the benefits of forming and sticking to healthy habits?

Influencers and health advocates seem to know the secret to feeling their best. There are many videos about “That girl”, attracting followers throughout the morning, evening or a whole day of life including healthy meals, complementary exercises and mindfulness practices. central. Even if you don’t have the resources or time to say good morning on your yoga mat, the good news is that a healthy habit is deeply personal and may seem different to everyone. And when it comes down to it, most of life revolves around habits.

Much of our waking time is structured by routine, and with healthy habits in place, we can intentionally design richer, more fulfilling days, says Dr. Habits in general free up our time to learn new things, he says. “The adoption of healthy habits like eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep all have long-term health consequences and help us live happier, healthier lives.”

Why can it be difficult to make positive changes in our lives?

It is a widely known fact that inertia can feel like an irresistible force. While they can make it difficult for us, it’s much easier to practice the same habits that keep us from growing and moving in the direction we want to go. For better or worse, “most of us have established habits,” notes Dr. Brewer. They don’t match the way our brains really work, says Dr. Brewer, for strategies we’ve long believed would help us change.

He argues that willpower is an important, misguided culprit. “When we spend time trying to use willpower, it drains our energy and drives us away from strategies that might be more helpful.”

So what really led to the change? Habits are formed through reward-based learning, based on positive and negative reinforcement, he says. In theory, giving up bad habits and adopting healthy ones leads to a simple, universal truth: We want to do more of what makes us feel good and less of what doesn’t. . Dots.

Let’s break it down even more. What is an effective strategy for forming healthy habits?

So if willpower isn’t working, and the goal is to follow what feels good, how do we get there? Thankfully, the answer is not found in hitting yourself for falling off a wagon. To replace? Dr. Brewer excited it out of curiosity. “Curiosity helps us stay in the present moment in a nonjudgmental way. The only way to break a habit is to see how unhelpful it is right now, and curiosity helps us uncover these old habits.”

For example, if you suspect you may have had too much to drink, Dr. Brewer encourages exploring “whether those behaviors are helpful or not with curiosity.” How do you feel in your body? (Answer: it looks terrible.)

“Curiosity,” says Dr. Brewer, “helps us harness our brains to become bored with these old habits, so we can break them. Curiosity itself feels better than many of our old bad habits. That’s why I think of it as a superpower,” he asserts.

How do we get back on track if we drift away from routine or practice?

The proverb we allude to above? It’s true that we can’t always be 100 percent perfect and we inevitably drift away from our daily routines when life gets in the way. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get started simply. Again, Dr. Brewer sees awareness and curiosity as ways to get back into a supportive routine. Ask yourself the following:

  • What do I get when I give up my healthy habits?
  • What do I get when I follow them?

“Remembering what it feels like to have a healthy routine can help restart this process,” Dr. Brewer says. “For example, if you’re exercising but then stop, you can remember how it felt when you were in a state.”

Are you sleeping better? Do you have more energy throughout the day? This strategy can be applied to any habit you want to revert to. Whether it’s eating healthy, better sleep hygiene, journaling or any exercise that feels good to you.

Here, Dr. Brewer shares 3 of the most effective tips for forming and maintaining a healthy habit

Step 1: Map out the healthy habit you want to develop.

All habits have three elements: a trigger, a behavior, and an outcome/reward.

  1. TRIGGER is what starts a habit
  2. BEHAVIOR is a habit
  3. RESULTS / REWARDS is how you feel after the behavior

I’ve designed a free habit mapper to help simplify the process and explain each element in more detail.

Step 2: Ask yourself: “What do I get out of this?”

We need to feed our brains with new information to learn how healthy habits help us. By paying attention to the results of your habits in the present moment, you can knock your brain out of autopilot and see and feel exactly how beneficial that habit is. for you now.

Step 3: Enjoy your win.

Every time you complete a workout or eat healthy for a day, think about how it feels. For most of us, it feels really good. It is important to capture this so that your brain can record this new memory. This process of enjoying the moment helps us see the value of our new healthy habits.

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