Unity Challenge: Habit-building

Leon Antonio Outar

Leon Antonio Outar is a trainee psychologist, PhD researcher, published author, and qualified personal trainer who specialises in body image, physical activity adherence and addiction, weight-management, motivation and psychological wellbeing.

Unity Challenge: Habit-building

Discover the psychology behind forming new habits
Discover the psychology behind forming new habits

Unity Challenge: Habit-building

Around 80% of us have given up on new year's resolutions by February, while only 8% see them out. Learn how to form new habits that will actually stick with advice from psychologist and personal trainer, Leon Antonio-Outar, to make this year your healthiest, most productive yet.

Leon Antonio Outar

Leon Antonio Outar is a trainee psychologist, PhD researcher, published author, and qualified personal trainer who specialises in body image, physical activity adherence and addiction, weight-management, motivation and psychological wellbeing.

Actions

1
Progression is key

Set easy goals

Start off super easy. Never run before? Commit to no more than one run a week, at first. Any more could leave you sore, struggling, and generally disliking the way running makes you feel.

Want to eat less sugar? Set staggered goals to wean yourself off rather than trying to go cold turkey and finding yourself low on energy, which makes everything harder.

Don’t decide to try and train at 6am everyday if you know you’ll never be able to drag yourself out of bed to do it. You'll already be setting yourself up to fail.

By setting a goal you can actually achieve, you'll start building positive associations with that behaviour and enjoying those lovely dopamine hits your brain rewards you with for getting stuff done, rather than developing negative feelings of failure than often lead to quitting.

2
Time is of the essence

Consider when, not just what

If you're resolving to train more, for example, pick specific days and times to commit to. Not only will this help your brain start building contextual clues that make getting started so much easier, building a routine is essential if you want to do something regularly.

Otherwise, before you know it, the days and the weeks will have gone by and you will somehow just never have found the time...

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3
Create positive associations

Reward yourself

Whatever new habit(s) you're trying to form, you need to create as many positive associations with the behaviour as possible to increase your chances of staying on track.

Treat yourself to a (healthy, of course!) takeway after training, buy yourself something nice after each month of sticking to your new routine, allow yourself to binge a TV show with no shame - whatever makes you happy.

As long as your reward doesn't totally derail any gains your new habits may have helped you make – all-night benders can never be justfied no matter how may reps you smashed out at the gym – the longer-term advantage of sticking with your goals far outweighs the damage done by the odd pint, slice of cake, or Keeping Up With The Kardashians binge! Well, maybe not that last one...

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