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Short term health and lifestyle changes are relatively easy to stick to, such as giving up chocolate for Lent, alcohol for January, or getting the most out of a first month’s gym membership. However, the true challenge comes in making positive changes last. Personal trainer Bernard McGowan believes that there are simple ways to help positive changes stick.

One Change at a Time

It might be tempting to try to tackle every health goal at the same time. However, this can lead to feeling overwhelmed, which makes falling back into old habits more likely. Research into behaviour changes over the years has proven that for changes to become habits, they need to take minimal effort, making them easier to stick to even if motivation has dropped. Once one attainable change has become a habit, it is time to move onto the next health goal.

Tie The Change in to An Existing Habit

New activities are easier to stick to if busy schedules do not need rearranging to fit them in. One way to achieve this is by connecting a new activity to an existing habit. For example, it is possible to get a short, five-minute workout in whilst making a cup of tea in the morning. Thinking about the various transition points in the day and regular tasks can help to identify changes that can be connected to existing habits.

Environmental Changes

Everyone is influenced by their environment, so it should reflect any healthy changes you want to create. Removing sweet, unhealthy treats from kitchens and replacing them with nutritious alternatives is one way to achieve this if the goal is to eat healthier.

Orchestrate easy short exercise opportunities around the home by keeping a step in the kitchen for whilst tea is brewing, or an exercise band in the living room for during advert breaks.

If the goal is to achieve better sleep habits, try putting up blackout blinds, banning mobile phones and other devices from the bedroom, and investing in earplugs and an eye mask.

Celebrate the Victories

Celebrating victories, no matter how small, is an effective way to encourage changes to stick. The more intense the positive emotions are that come with a new behaviour, the quicker it will become a habit. Ways to maintain positivity towards a new habit include using stickers on a wall chart, ticking a calendar, or using an app to log achievements like alcohol or smoke free days, the number of steps taken, or the amount of exercise completed.