Mental Preparation for Habit Change
Updated: Nov 4, 2022
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At this point in the year, many people are typically beginning to lapse on exercise and wellness commitments made in the New Year. Attendance at fitness centers typically drops off as the weather improves, motivation wanes, and life seems to take over. You may have previously committed to yourself to stay engaged in your exercise program only to, in dismay, see another season pass in which your resolve has faltered.
You swore it would be different this time. Nevertheless, you may find yourself feeling swallowed up by the demands of life yet again, falling into a well-worn default rut. Your best intentions may also have been hijacked by exhaustion, aches, pains, and/or injuries. You are tired.
Motivation is great and certainly necessary, albeit insufficient, to get restarted!
If we are honest, many of us either embark upon this journey with more brawn than strategy, or we take the head-in-the-sand approach of complete avoidance. Sometimes we alternate between both and then give up, telling ourselves the story that we will do it “another time”. I have done both of these! Sabotaged, yet again.
We need to mentally prepare for the journey by taking an intelligent approach to changing our habits.
The process of change for anything can be as predictable as a wild ride.
The first thing I would suggest to you is to take action by being still. That's right! We must reflect upon WHY it is that we want to make a change, and then prepare ourselves for implementing it. In a culture of crazy fitness fads, diets, and quick transformations, it can feel tedious, boring, and just plain hard to play the long game doing what will actually build a sustainable foundation.
Our WHY can help us move through the challenges of making the desired change with greater energy and inspiration rather than just getting bogged down by the day-to-day. At its core, it is usually something that has higher stakes and emotional charge than “I want to fit into my pants.” Think along the lines of wanting to be a great parent, realize a dream, or live independently as long as possible.
Mindset might be an overused word these days, yet your mental attitude is critical for your success in reaching any hard-won goals. It is important to be mentally prepared, resilient, and flexible. Know that there will be setbacks, trigger situations that lead to lapses, struggles with motivation at the level of the habit, and that our path may materialize differently than what we initially intended. It is a game of rinse & repeat, recognizing & labeling our resistance as such, and just taking the next right step anyhow, wherever we find ourselves. Replace judgment with self-compassion, wisdom and equanimity.
Having a support system in place helps with all of this immeasurably. What changes are you hoping to make, whether with exercise, nutrition, sleep, or other habits? Why? How will you get support to help you strategize, keep you motivated, and stay accountable throughout the process? Where are your blind spots about this? Will you partner with a friend, write in a journal, and/or seek out counseling or coaching? Start with small doable steps and remember - you don’t have to do this alone!