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The effect of small changes on big habits

Many of us have habits that we want to change. There are good habits that we want to start or bad habits that we want to stop. Often, those habits seem very daunting and intimidating to even attempt to tackle. What if I told you that changing them doesn’t require a big effort, but rather a bunch of small efforts? The secret to changing your life is actually a series of small adjustments and following a system.

For example, let’s say you have a bad habit you want to stop. Step one is to make it take more time. If your goal is to stop eating potato chips or ice cream because they’re causing you to become overweight, then try these four steps. The first step here: Do not have any of that food in your house. That means if you want some, it’s going to take more time because you’re going to have to get in the vehicle and go buy some. This leads us perfectly into the next step: Make it cost more money. If you do decide that you just can’t live without some ice cream tonight, go to the gas station and pay triple for that one-litre tub of Ben and Jerry’s. That’s going to hurt – $10 or $11 for a little bit of ice cream? Seriously? Absolutely. Convenience costs money. The third step: Make it take more effort physically and mentally. The above example of going to get your favourite treat already contains some of this, but what if you added another level? Make an agreement with yourself that not only do you have to go get it because you don’t have any in the house, and you must get it at the gas station or convenience store, but also, you have to walk or ride a bicycle. Now it’s going to take more effort and maybe you just don’t. The fourth and final step: Make it screw up your day. Make it cost a privilege. You can have the treat that’s going to ruin your diet, but it means you don’t get to do something you like. You’re going to have to cancel the golf game with your friends or you cannot watch your favourite show, etc. Choose something undesirable.

Those simple changes will make it easier to stop the bad habit. One of the most successful ways I’ve used to help clients stop smoking is that they have to agree to drink half a litre of water before every cigarette. They also must put an equal amount of money into a jar for every package of cigarettes they buy and, of course, they have to buy them at the most expensive place. Naturally, they have to walk there as well. Eventually having to drink that much water is going to flip the script. You’re going to start changing the way you feel about having a cigarette and how often. It literally reprograms your brain and, worst-case scenario, you don’t quit smoking, but you’re more hydrated! And that’s hardly a bad thing.

Now, on to habits we want to create. Let’s use eating healthy food in order to drop some weight as our example today. Step one: Make the new habit obvious. In this case, make sure your home is filled with amazing, healthy food. Step two: Make the new habit attractive. With good nutrition, that could be playing your favourite music while you cook or making food that looks like it was prepared in a restaurant. Step three: Make it easy. In the case of food, that’s where meal preparation comes in. It doesn’t really take any longer to cook 12 chicken breasts on the barbeque as it does to cook just two for supper tonight. Now, tomorrow and the next day, your protein source is easy. Personally, I am a big fan of using the Instant Pot pressure cooker to create an amazing stew or chili with protein, rice and vegetables and it feeds us for five days with hardly any time at all. Heat and eat. That just made eating healthy easy. Step four in creating a new good habit: Make it satisfying. In the case of nutrition, obviously that means finding incredible recipes that taste great, look great and are healthy. The world is absolutely filled with those now and we are so lucky that they are easy to find with a quick search.

By changing all of the little things around the big habit you want to end or create, you will find that the change comes easily. By changing all of these little things, everything moves in the right direction and you are designing your life on purpose.

Health and wellnessOpinion

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