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Gently Embracing a New Year: Part 2

Last time, we discussed the powerful tool of finding our deeper why and how impactful that is for changing long-term behaviors centered around our well-being. I encouraged you to consider embracing what is most natural in winter for the rest of the animal kingdom, but we can build healthy habits at any time, and all efforts matter. If you’re exploring building healthier habits, there are tools to add to your wellness toolbelt to help make those habits stick. While I often preach about how vital our environment and culture are to our long-term wellness practices, there is no denying that our mental state plays a massive role as well. Let’s dive in to the second aspect of building healthy habits that can set us up for greater success.

Photo by Amadeo Valar/Courtesy of Unsplash

Replacing Negatives with Positives
You are going to give up some comforts to build healthier habits, and you might experience some discomfort releasing those. It’s important that we replace a negative habit or behavior we want to get rid of with something positive. Otherwise, the pain of getting rid of something we used to self-soothe, or merely entertain ourselves, will make it easy to go back to the old habit, and not take the unknown leap to something new. You might be familiar with the ever-growing research on neural pathways and how choosing the same thing over and over creates neural “grooves” in our brains. It is challenging to get away from these grooves, but forging a new path, through new choices, is the best way to rebuild new grooves. 

In my corporate wellness practice, I teach invaluable steps for stress prevention (rather than stress management, which occurs after external stressors). When we rely heavily on self-soothing behaviors to manage our stress, it’s challenging to insert positive changes without first looking at our stress loads and focusing on prevention. Evaluating stresses, both external and our body’s reactions to those stressors, is paramount before, during, and after making long-term changes. 

Photo by Josh Millgate/Courtesy of Unsplash

What Do You Want?
Unfortunately, it is not just enough for us to state what we do not want; we also must state what we do want. Then, we actively pursue the more positive action again and again. A prime example of this is me not wanting to mindlessly scroll social media as much as I did last year. So, I will say that I want that, and I will set the intention; if I don’t replace the mindless scrolling with something that makes me happy and feels positive, it’ll be much harder to quit doing that habit. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention the positive that can come from setting boundaries. I have a timer on my phone for social media that alerts me when I hit the maximum allotted time for that day. These are called “nudges” in our environment and it is a small way we can trick ourselves into healthier behaviors. Yes, I can ignore the alarm once, but I set a boundary for myself to only ignore it one time if I chose. It’s like a one-strike policy. Using a calendar for workouts is another nudge I use weekly. Time doesn’t magically appear for healthier habits; we have to create space for it and show up.

Of course, we might need to adjust the replacement habits; that’s part of the learning process, so stay open to that. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to want something or know we should be doing it. We all know we need to eat well and get sleep and move our bodies regularly, but if we’re not actively prioritizing space for those behaviors, it’s unlikely they’ll work their way into our lives for more than a short season. 

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Because of how our minds work and how emotionally tied to our habits we are, it is vital that we find our deeper purpose behind our goals and then make sure we replace negative habits with more positive ones. Talk therapy and journaling can be hugely impactful if we find ourselves struggling with self-soothing habits that do not serve our greater purpose. Nature is a fantastic, rejuvenating escape, too! Dig deeper and find the WHY that’s closest to your heart; set goals for things that bring you joy, behaviors that make you feel good (rather than deprived) so that reaching those goals are that much easier and lasting! 

Lastly, comparison is nearly always the thief of joy. Remember that everyone you may admire for their healthy, balanced behaviors had to start somewhere and build their habits up too in a world that doesn’t make that easy. Relish in the opportunity that your unique path allows because your holistic well-being rewards you every time you show up for it. The more you show up, the easier it is to fold healthy habits into your daily life!

Mental health and wellness are Kayla Fanning’s passions, and she strongly believes our environment and culture play the largest role in holistic well-being. She helps organizations and humans build happier, healthier lives so they can thrive and not just survive. Nature is where she resets and finds balance.

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