If you’re looking to make real, transformative changes to your wellness – whether it’s eating healthier or embracing a sustained program of physical activity – your mind can play just as big (if not bigger) a role as your physical body. In fact, mastering a mindset shift can be the “key” to achieving your wellness goals versus riding the roller coaster of fad diets and quick-fix workouts.
So what does a mindset shift entail? Understanding the psychology of habits, such as how and why they’re formed, is critical to making the mental change that can lead you to a healthier lifestyle.
The Basics of Habit
At Forge, we define habits as an acquired set of behaviors that become almost involuntary, rooted deep in our subconscious through patterns and instigated responses. These learned responses are reinforced by repetition and the more powerful habits are often accompanied by an emotional trigger, or an instigator. Typically, habit tendencies are linked to the avoidance of pain or the pursuit of pleasure.
Autonomous acts are only the beginning of habit formation. There must be some sort of reward driving the actions – such as getting physical fit from exercise or good dental health from brushing our teeth. But those rewards are only the result of an internal or external instigator – that emotional trigger.
Habits Are Efficiency Adaptations
Habits create continuity, efficiencies, and reward in our daily activities. The automation of response is a necessary component of human function as not every single decision can be made intentionally or we’d be quickly overwhelmed. So, we must be proactive in our formation of habits, especially those with consequences, and prioritize our efforts there.
With the formation of positive wellness-based habits, we must apply a deliberate set of actions based on a known instigator, a planned response, and a reward aligned with
our outcome objective. We can’t be a passenger on this ride and must be completely engaged in our conscious response related to areas we want to improve. That means it’s important to take time to identify those negative or destructive habits that are automated and devote attention to changing them.
How We Resist Habit Formation
Understanding how we resist implementing or changing our habits is critical to altering those behaviors. And even though we all know change is inevitable, we resist it because it pulls us out of homeostasis and the familiar, removes predictability, and instigates the fear of loss.
In the fitness world, some of the more common resistance factors include:
One of the biggest hurdles people face on their fitness journey is oscillation, or massive overcorrection, which can lead to negative feedback and regression. The most common example is that of the crash or fad dieter.
- Selective Knowledge
This the idea that too much, or a lack of, knowledge can create habit resistance. Examples include researching, comparing, and digesting as much information about a choice to validate decisions, or confusion from conflicting information or not understanding the best approach to wellness.
- Return Versus Effort
This is when we resist making change because we fear the effort will be greater than our perceived return. We generally act in pursuing pleasure or the avoidance of pain but ironically, resistance in this form only delays return even further. You get nothing for nothing.
Fear of change can be quite subtle and elusive from your conscious realization or can be obvious and identifiable. Some common fear-based resistances include the disruption of homeostatic routine, fear of failure, fear of guilt, and fear of exhaustion.
Overcome Resistance to Change
When embarking on any kind of change, it’s important to understand your mindset and how it affects your ability to form a new habit. Identifying and understanding the various forms of resistance that can interfere with your efforts to change can help you develop the mental fortitude, and employ certain tactics, to overcome them. Remember that resistance comes in many flavors, but they all end in self sabotage and delayed results. To make positive change, it’s key to overcome resistance and embrace a new mindset and approach to your habits.
Forge founder Michael S. Parker’s newly published book, “90-Day Habit Transformation,” takes a deep dive into this topic, and much more, to help you achieve your wellness goals. And if you’re looking for hands-on support, schedule a time to chat and find a nutrition or fitness coach who can guide you on your journey.