How to Personalize Your Wellness Routines
While the basic elements of healthy living appear deceivingly simple, they can be tough to implement. Here’s the challenge: The basics alone are just a list of ingredients that make up a recipe for positive change. We each need a personalized recipe that takes into account our individual quirks and preferences, as well as our unique biology and health requirements. Here are some strategies for making your healthy habits work for you.
Success depends on how well you can identify strategies that align with what makes you you. It’s much easier to adjust your plan than it is to try and wedge yourself into a framework that competes with your basic nature.
Reflect first on circumstances that have led you to achieve a goal, and then on those that distracted you from following through. Consider taking a personality test to help you get to know yourself better. (Try habit and happiness expert Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies Quiz). Here are a few questions to get you started:
Answering these questions can help you identify the best strategies for bringing back the basics. For example, if you need accountability, signing up for workout classes that charge a no-show fee may help you maintain a regular exercise routine.
- Do you need accountability or do you rebel against obligations?
- Do you prefer solitude or social settings?
- Do you prefer familiarity or variability?
- Are you a planner or are you spontaneous?
- Do you prefer to take big steps or baby steps?
Hack Your Habits
Once you’ve identified actions that support your plans, the next step is to turn those actions into habits.
- Downsize. Focus on one habit at a time and break it down to the smallest, easiest action imaginable. This helps frame the habit into a task so simple it would be ridiculous not to follow through. For example, if your goal is to drink 10 glasses of water each day, rephrase the habit: drink one glass of water per hour.
- Look for cues. Piggyback on routines that are already part of your daily life, such as taking a shower, brushing your teeth, and eating. Use these recurring actions as a cue to trigger your new behavior. For example, when you make coffee, drink a glass of water while it brews.
- Make a schedule. When a task is scheduled, suddenly it becomes a priority, encouraging us to manage our time around it. Try putting your weekly workouts on your calendar.
- Make your environment work for you. Don’t be sabotaged by your surroundings. Make the healthy choice the most convenient one. For example, give your pantry a makeover: put healthier choices at eye level and store junk food out of arm’s reach.
Collect Your Data
The final step to cultivating a personalized healthy lifestyle is to know yourself. Use an app or keep a journal to track your habits and how they impact your mood, energy level, hunger, performance, and weight. This will serve as a source of accountability and also provide data that will reveal patterns.
For example, one person may thrive on seven hours of sleep, while others require nine. Similarly, two people served the same exact meal may experience drastic differences in blood sugar, energy, and weight. Keeping track of this information will help you understand how to manipulate variables in a way that works for your goals, such as setting an earlier bedtime or eating small meals more often. Treat these changes as experiments and enjoy the process of discovering what works for you.
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