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Create Amazing, Healthy Habits

It’s as easy as these three simple steps!

By Missi Balison

The beauty of summertime is that our schedules can relax a bit! With longer days we can be rejuvenated with more daylight time to do the things we love (hiking, boating, gardening). But, there can be one drawback to this relaxed lifestyle: People tend to let their good habits slip a bit.

Today I am going to teach you the simple steps that go into creating good habits so you can implement them this summer and not lose ground on bettering your health! Here are the three simple (and scientific) steps to creating a solid new habit!

Step 1: Break that habit down into a smaller step.

If drinking more water is a habit you want to maintain this summer, try breaking it down into a manageable size. For example, drinking a gallon of water can be a daunting task, but when you break the day into four sections (6 to 9am, 9am to noon, noon to 3pm, 3 to 6pm) and commit to drinking just 32 ounces every three hours, that task becomes more “doable.” Better yet, if you break that down into an hourly goal of 10 to 11 ounces every hour ... this you can do!

Step 2: Create a “trigger” for these mini steps.

It is key to create a trigger to remind you to do the task. Make sure the trigger is something that happens consistently without fail so there is no opportunity to forget. When your brain connects the good habit to a trigger, it will become an automatic response—and creating a new habit has just become that much easier. Basically, this takes the brain work out of the equation and serves as an automatic reminder.

If you have a mini goal to drink 10 ounces of water every hour, simply set an alarm on your phone to remind you it’s time to take a swig (or 10). Other trigger examples can include: 10 pushups before bed (you go to bed every day); squats every time you brush your teeth; posture check every time your phone rings or a text comes in (whatever happens often throughout your day).

Step 3: Reward yourself!

This part is actually the most important step of creating a new habit—so do not skip it! Every time you perform the mini step, I want you to “celebrate” your accomplishment with a little reward (not ice cream sundaes). Give yourself a fist bump, a happy dance, and air high five … whatever makes you feel happy!

Something magical happens when you reward yourself for completing the habit. The magic is called dopamine! Dopamine is a powerful brain chemical that is produced when you do something that is exciting. Your brain loves dopamine and will want to do that “thing” again and again. Celebrating the completion of the mini step will make your brain excited for that next fist bump when your alarm goes off and you chug down that water.

Soon these mini steps, triggers and dopamine hits will culminate into amazing, lasting healthy habits!

Apply these steps to anything that you are either trying to create or a habit that you want to make sure you don’t slip up on throughout the dog days of summer.

If you want to dive in a little deeper, some of my favorite books about habits are: Atomic Habits by James Clear, Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg, The 5-Second Rule by Mel Robbins.

Missi Balison is a personal trainer, exercise physiologist and Certified Precision Nutrition coach.

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