Good habits: At 5:30 in the morning, the alarm goes off. Full of motivation, you jump out of bed to train. Then it’s time to drink a green smoothie before starting a productive day fresh and full of energy. After a protein-rich dinner with fresh vegetables and short mindfulness meditation, you fall asleep peacefully and wake up after 8 hours and start again.
Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an ambitious plan, but following at least a few healthy habits shouldn’t be that hard, right? This is not quite the case. Changing bad habits and adopting some good ones is not that trivial. But if you really want it, you can do it. Guaranteed.
Before you radically change your lifestyle, breathe and take some time to think carefully about your decision. The key to having healthier routines is to fully understand the power of habits and to do that you need to know how they are born and how they work. Healthy habits are the foundation of a healthy lifestyle.
We explain how to develop good habits and change bad ones, plus you will discover why they are the key to being happier and healthier. Ready to? Let’s begin!
What are Good habits?
Linked to situations and triggered by external circumstances, habits are behaviors that become completely automatic after being repeated constantly over a long period of time. Good habits.
This means that in some very specific situations, we automatically always do the same thing: it can be eating chocolate or going for a morning run when we are still sleepy. Anything we do regularly in recurring situations is a good habit.
According to psychologist Bas Verplanken, around 30-50% of our daily actions are a habit. This is smart enough because it saves the brain some neurological and cognitive resources; it can be said to work in low-power mode.
Why are these Good habits?
Habits are used to structure the days and offer safety, thus simplifying life: doing something because it is a daily routine saves energy and time.
Imagine having to decide every day whether to shower, brush your teeth or how to put one foot in front of the other. But there is a sore point: the brain cannot distinguish good habits from bad ones.
We establish what is good or bad based on the actions we have internalized in our life.
Your habits are healthy if you play sports and eat healthy without having to think about it, simply because it is your routine. In a nutshell, going to fast food or preferring a poké bowl depends on what the brain identifies as “good”; whether your conscience agrees or not is another story.
Good habits make you happy because by definition they are in harmony with your personality and self-perception. When our behaviors reflect our values, we feel internally balanced and we are happier and more satisfied.
Bad habits have the opposite effect: they cause an internal conflict to fight against, creating a state that is known in psychology as cognitive dissonance.
Habit cycle: how are healthy habits born? Good habits.
Putting on autopilot- according to James Clear and his book Atomic Habits, (in Italian ” Small habits for big changes “ ), both good and bad habits are based on a neuronal cycle and result from the combination of 4 components:
signal, desire, response (action), and gratification.
- Signal: the alarm goes off and the signal triggers a very specific behavior, mostly involuntary, which can be of a spatial, emotional, temporal, mental, or external nature.Good habits.
- Desire: after 8 hours of deep sleep you want to reactivate your circulation and you already dream of your gratification. Desire motivates the action you are about to perform and is often an important unconscious stimulus of your habit.
- Answer: You put on your shoes and take your run in peace. The answer is a habit, which can be both an active behavior and a thought.
- Reward: a hearty breakfast after the run.
Gratification elicits a positive feeling that underlies the whole concept of habit.
These 4 components create the so-called habit loop in our brain: the more often this cycle is triggered, the stronger the connection between signal and response will be. Habits become so automatic that you can neither identify the stimulus nor reflect on the action performed. Good habits.
Understanding and internalizing this structure is very important for developing new habits: if you break the cycle, you can avoid carrying on bad habits.
The most important step in changing habits is always identifying the cue and desire (internal motivation) to create a new routine.
An example: we all know the craving for chocolate after lunch. Have you decided that you want to give up dessert in the future? Simply forbidding yourself from doing something will not lead you to develop a new lasting habit.
Instead, we suggest you focus on the signal and gratification; for example, from now on your reward will be a long walk in the fresh air. If you focus on how you feel when your body is in motion, it will be easier for you to respond to the same signal with a different action in the future. The more often you react like this, the stronger your desire for gratification (positive feeling) will become and your motivation will increase.
If you follow this pattern often enough, your new behavior will become a routine after a period of time. Until then it is likely that some discipline will be required.
And even when all else fails, our Extra Chocolate Protein Bars are an ideal healthier alternative to a piece of chocolate after lunch.
Why is it so difficult to develop new habits? Good habits.
Because humans are programmed to stay in their own comfort zone, which is familiar, comfortable, and safe. So why change? It is a complex mechanism. Researchers have found that the habits programmed in the brain are so fixed that they cannot be changed simply by willpower. They need to be reprogrammed, and that takes time, patience, and discipline.
Top 10 good habits
We have said all about the theory. Unfortunately, there are no good habits that guarantee maximum satisfaction with certainty, but there are healthy routines that are precious to many people. Here are our top 10 Good habits:
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1. You take 7,500 – 15,000 steps a day
You can add them every day to sport: a pedometer app, smartwatch, or fitness tracker allow you to monitor movement, which is important to stay healthy and to switch off.
According to the WHO, 10,000 steps correspond to a good half hour of movement. Several types of research show that 7,500 steps already have a positive effect on health, while others suggest taking 15,000 steps. Find out what’s right for you.
2. Work out three times a week
With three training sessions per week, you can focus on your sporting goals and see your progress, ensuring your body has a sufficient regeneration period.
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3. Choose healthy eating.
Forget fast food and follow a healthy diet every day: as soon as you get into this good habit, cravings for sweets and hunger pangs will be just a distant memory.
4. Drink enough
This is easier said than done. How much water to drink per day? It depends on factors such as physical activity, external temperature, and nutrition, but approximately 2-3 liters of water per day are recommended, not counting drinks.
5. Daily relaxation
Good habits: Give yourself breaks, you don’t have to be productive all day. Short breaks, a few mindful breaths, 20 minutes of movement, or a quick nap help you cope with difficult situations.
The moments of daily relaxation also reduce the negative effects of stress on the body: they are certainly a benefit for health.
6. Find your sleep routine
Good habits: Restful sleep is vital to health, but not everyone needs 8 hours of sleep. Sleep expert and international sports coach Nick Littlehales explain that the sleep cycle lasts 90 minutes and we should ideally sleep for 4-6 cycles a night.
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7. Meditate daily
For some time now, the positive effects of meditation have allowed this spiritual practice to make its way into society. CEOs, managers, and professional sportsmen practice it to focus on their goals, but also to deal with stress productively, work on their dogmas and live more calmly.
And these are just some of the many benefits you can reap if you learn to meditate; apps or guided meditations are very useful, especially for beginners.
8. Establish a morning routine.
The morning is the moment when you decide how the rest of the day will unfold, so it is particularly important to do something that helps you feel good and face the challenges that will arise. But what to do? Find out by reading our 6 tips for a productive morning routine.
9. Enjoy a few hours of analog life
Spending time without being in front of a screen (including smartphones and smartwatches) is a balm for the soul: you return to live in the here and now, thus giving yourself the opportunity to be present. Set aside a few minutes each day when you turn everything off and consciously dedicate yourself to yourself.
Whether it’s Meal Prep, reading, painting, doing handwork, or just looking out the window, you choose freely what you want to do.
10. Stay positive
That doesn’t mean you don’t have to care about situations if something goes wrong. On the contrary, failures are part of life, they must be recognized and accepted; however, being grateful for the little things allows you to focus on the positives of the day.
Tip: To strengthen focus, write down three things of the day each night for three months that you are grateful for or that were especially good.
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