“I start out great and am able to maintain my healthy behaviors for awhile, but then life gets in the way. Before long, I find myself making excuses not to work out or I start going through the drive-thru on the way home from work, and before long, I give up completely.” Does this sound like you? Why is it so hard to form healthy behaviors that ‘stick’? One reason is that we depend too much on motivation. If we really want to make lasting change, we need to make healthy behaviors convenient.
That way, we don’t have to depend on motivation, which can wax and wane. We can set up our environment to make healthy behaviors easier and encourage us to keep going.
In the post What Is Environmental Wellness we talked about ways to make our environments support our health and wellbeing. When we talk about environment in this context, we’re not just talking about our surroundings. We’re also talking about the ‘systems’ we put into place to help us.
Making Healthy Behaviors More Convenient
1. Plan your meals.
Meal planning isn’t my favorite thing to do, but it’s the one thing that makes the most difference for my family when it comes to healthful eating, so I do it. Of course, making it easy to do is key to actually sitting down and doing it, so I use a weekly fill-in-the-box meal planning worksheet.
Once the meal plan is done, it’s easy to make your shopping list. Just put anything you need for all the meals on your plan, and your list is practically done. All you have to do is add the ‘extras’ like cleaning products, paper goods, etc.
2. Organize your pantry and refrigerator.
When you’re looking for something healthy to eat, how easy is to find something in your fridge or pantry? If everything is scattered all over the place or tucked out of sight, it may not get used before it goes bad. A little organization goes a long way.
As I mentioned in the post I Tried Hello Fresh, I really loved being able to pull the bag of ingredients out of the fridge and having everything I needed for the meal I was making. I decided to adopt that idea and now when I get home from the grocery store I put the ingredients for each dinner meal in its own bin. Then I just put a Post-It Note on the bin with the name of the meal. All I have to do is pull out the bin and I have all my ingredients right there.
3. Make healthy foods readily available.
When you’re hungry, what’s the first thing you’re going to grab? Chances are, it’s the thing that’s going to take the least work and/or time to prepare. We can make it easier to eat those foods that are going to support our wellness goals by making them the ones that are most convenient.
For instance, keeping cut-up veggies and some hummus, fresh fruit, yogurt, nuts, and other nutritious foods right up front where you’re most likely to see them can help you grab those instead of something like a candy bar or chips.
Another thing I do with my bins is to have a ‘snack’ bin that has the cut-up veggies and hummus in it in small containers so I can just pull it out and have my snack ready in about two minutes.
It can be helpful to prepare any salad greens you buy as soon as you get home from the grocery store also. Because my energy levels aren’t always the greatest due to fibromyalgia, I just wait until I make our first salad. When I get ready to make our salads, I just cut up all the lettuce that we bought, wash it and give it a spin in the salad spinner. Once it’s ready, I put it in gallon Zip-Loc bags with a paper towel and put it in the produce drawer.
This usually keeps it fresh for the whole week, and it makes it really easy to make a salad. I already have the other cut-up veggies in the snack bin, so I can just grab everything and toss it together quickly.
4. Cook ‘extras’ of healthy foods.
When you’re cooking, it’s easy to just cook a little extra and store the rest to use later. Because we eat so much chicken, quite often I’ll cook a value-sized package of chicken breasts in the crockpot and use them for several meals over the next few days. That makes it easy to have a protein for salads or to use for healthy grain bowls, rice bowls, etc. You can also make extra whole grains like brown rice or quinoa and freeze for later.
5. Keep workout gear right where you’ll see it.
Whether it’s laying your workout clothes out the night before or putting your sneakers in front of the door, having your gear right where you’ll see it will remind you of the exercise routine you’re trying to establish.
Another thing that can be helpful is to strategically place exercise equipment where not only will you see it often, you can just pick it up and use it for a couple of quick exercises. It doesn’t have to be an eyesore – you can just tuck it in a basket in the corner to keep your room from looking messy.
We have an actual workout room downstairs, but I keep a basket with my yoga mats and props right in the family room where I spend the most time. I also have my exercise videos right in my TV cabinet. It’s a great reminder that I want to exercise and an easy way to get a quick workout done.
6. Schedule your workouts, quiet time, or meditation time.
Treat your workout, quiet time, meditation time like you’d treat a business meeting or doctor’s appointment – put it on your calendar. Making an appointment with ourselves is key to ensuring we follow through with our intentions.
7. Plan to take a ‘movement break’ every hour.
We spend a LOT of time sitting these days – we sit at the computer, we sit during meetings, we sit as we watch TV in the evenings…. We can help fight the effects of too much sitting by getting up once an hour to move around a little. Whether it’s going out for a quick walk, doing a couple of squats or stretches, or just walking around the office for a few minutes, moving every hour can help us get more movement into our day.
For more small ways to get more movement into your day, check out 21 Small Ways to Move More.
8. If you travel, book a hotel with a workout room or carry a ‘mobile gym’ with you.
It’s really easy to throw a couple of resistance bands into your suitcase. They don’t weigh much or take up much room, but they can help you get some exercise in while you’re away. Toss these and a list of bodyweight exercises in your bag and you’re good to go.
These are just a few of the ways we can set ourselves up for success when it comes to healthy behaviors. There are many things we can do to make our environment support our wellness goals. We just have to find the things that are going to work for each of us.
This week, let’s ask ourselves:
When we’re working toward our wellness goals, we can’t depend on motivation to keep us going. If we want to support a healthy lifestyle, we have to be in it for the long haul, and motivation will be high at some times and in the toilet at others. Finding ways to make our healthy behaviors convenient can keep us doing them even when we’re not feeling particularly motivated. This can be critical to developing healthy habits for life.
What are some of the things you do to make your healthy behaviors convenient and keep you going when your motivation wanes? Please share!