Change is hard. But, when you want to turn a healthy action into a healthy habit, most likely, change is necessary.
Our mental health expert, Dr. Max Wachtel, understands the struggle. A few years ago, he had the itch to start working out. To help himself change his habit of not working out, he focused his efforts on the “4 R’s of Change.” Soon, he found himself enjoying his daily workouts – some days he was even eager to get to the gym!
Let’s say you’ve noticed that your mind isn’t as sharp as it used to be. In an effort to engage your brain more often, you decide you want to complete a crossword puzzle during lunch every day. Here’s an example of how you can relate the “4 R’s of Change” to this goal:
- Reminder. Remember to make the change you desire. (Put the crossword book next to your toothbrush so you remember each morning!)
- Routine. Develop a routine! (You set aside some time every day during lunch.)
- Reward. You’ve got to reward yourself. (After a successful week, buy yourself a bouquet of flowers to celebrate!)
- Reflect. Think about what worked and what didn’t. (It didn’t work when you were busy.)
After a few weeks of lunchtime puzzles, you may find yourself reaching for your crossword when the clock strikes noon! If that’s the case, treat yourself! Or, if you realize a roadblock that seems to always get in your way each day, adjust your goal – perhaps completing a crossword puzzle every other day is more realistic, and still makes your mind just as engaged.
Inevitably, life will throw you a curveball and your routine will get thrown off. Whether it be travel for work, an illness, or something else unexpected, that’s okay! Dr. Max throws in a “bonus R” – Resist the urge to beat yourself up. Life happens! Give yourself a break and then get back on track.
When you realize that forming a new habit can improve your health, it’s important to be mindful about the process of change. Don’t just “wing it.” When you have a productive way to analyze something, you’re able to think more clearly about your success (or lack thereof.)