When it comes to taking care of our health, daily habits are key. It is the consistent things we do every day that add up to enhance our overall wellness and prevent disease.
Habits are powerful because they become automatic behaviors that we do with minimal thought or effort. Over time, these small efforts accumulate and have a significant impact. For instance, most of us brush our teeth twice a day without much complaint or question, but this little action has a huge impact. Brushing helps to prevent cavities and supports our oral health and digestive system.
Habits can also be harmful. Smoking, drinking, overeating, negative self-talk, or too much time on technology can have negative impacts on our health over time. When forming new habits, we want to do our best to engage in the things we know will benefit our wellbeing and reduce harmful behaviors.
When it comes to supporting the immune system to defend against HPV, habits play an important role. Even if you already live a healthy lifestyle, we can all benefit from adopting an extra healthy habit or two.
So, how do you create healthier habits and make them stick?
First, start by identifying what health goals you want to achieve
Before making any lifestyle change it is important to understand your why. Health will mean different things for each of us so understanding why you want to change will help guide the habits you target.
For example, you may want to support your body against HPV. With that goal in mind, you may want to quit smoking, incorporate an extra serving of green leafy vegetables into your diet, or go to bed earlier to get 7-8 hours of sleep. Your goal may be to feel more at peace. Habit for that may look like saying no to more engagements or setting aside time to meditate each morning. Spend some time identifying what you want and then brainstorm how you think you can get there.
Often when we are trying to make lifestyle changes, we can get overwhelmed by making too many big changes too quickly. When we feel overwhelmed, we are less likely to follow through with our intended actions. Remember to slow down and start with something small and achievable.
Try setting a time and place to complete your new habit. For example, “I am going to go for a walk every day after dinner”, is more realistic than “I am going to walk 5 km a day”. This helps keep your habits flexible and takes the pressure off. It also helps creates a ritual around the new habit which brings us to our next tip.
Are you ready to respond to HPV?
Daily rituals are a great way to start implementing a new behavior into your routine. A helpful way to do this is to pair it with something you already do.
Let’s use brushing your teeth again because most of us do that daily. You may be trying to take new supplements to support your immune system. After brushing your teeth in the morning, you could take your supplements. Place your supplement container near your toothbrush so you are easily reminded. Soon, you will naturally pair teeth brushing with taking your supplements and a new habit is formed.
You could also try creating a ritual before bedtime, when putting your clothes on in the morning, or drinking your morning cup of coffee or tea. Take note of things you do every day and then see how you can pair the new behavior with what you already do.
Checking in through reflection
Things don’t always go as planned. Setting aside time each week to reflect on how you are doing and adjust accordingly can help you stay on track.
For example, schedule a Sunday evening check-in to write down how you did this week on your goals. Consider what went well and what you could do differently. Then plan accordingly for the next week. Maybe your goal was too ambitious – that is okay! Ask yourself, what could make it a little easier this week? Try rating how likely you would be to follow through on a scale of 0-10 (10 being very likely, 0 being not at all). If you score below a 7, that’s a sign to bring it back a level and make it easier.
We all have busy lives and get caught up in things. Setting alarms, reminders, or scheduling in your habits helps you stay consistent. Maybe you want to set a reminder on your phone to take your supplements or drink water throughout the day. Use your calendar to schedule times to exercise, rest, or meal prep. That way even if you have a busy schedule, you can account for those healthy habits into your routine.
Having someone to help hold you accountable for your health goals can support your success! Whether that’s a friend, family member, support group, partner, or practitioner, it’s helpful to have someone you can check in with. It can be especially helpful to find someone that will adopt healthy habits with you to encourage you when you’re not feeling up to it.
Be kind to yourself
Lastly, and most importantly, remember to show yourself compassion. Changing behaviors can be challenging. We are not going to be perfect all the time. Aim for doing the best you can. Put in the effort and be gentle with yourself on the rest – tomorrow is always a new day. One small setback doesn’t mean you can’t get up and try again! You can do this!