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Mindful Corner: Forming New Habits

We all have new habits we may be looking to form. This may be working out four times per week, going to bed earlier, or reacting differently in stressful situations. Breaking old habits and forming new ones can be challenging. Take a look at the below tips on linking behaviors and layering small changes to help you get started on forming new healthy habits.

Linking Behaviors

Perhaps you are interested in making exercise a habit, part of your daily routine. One way to get started is to consider something you already do every day. For example, if you tend to start cooking dinner at 6:00 pm every evening, maybe you would like to walk around your neighborhood for 15 minutes every evening before starting dinner. By linking these two behaviors, you may find that this 15 minute bout of exercise becomes a habit more easily.

Layering Small Changes

Let’s say your ultimate goal is to exercise for 30 minutes per day. After weeks of linking the above behaviors, hopefully you will have gotten into the habit of walking around your neighborhood for 15 minutes every evening before starting dinner. Now, you can layer another small change on top of this habit. The next step may be going for a 10 minute walk after you eat lunch. Practice this for a few weeks and when you are in the habit of going on two short walks per day, you may be ready to layer an additional small change on top of these. After brushing your teeth every morning, perhaps you do 5 minutes of body weight exercises, such as wall push-ups, lunges, squats, and sit-ups. In a few weeks, you will have formed another habit and are now in the routine of exercising for 30 minutes per day.

Through linking behaviors and layering these small changes on top of each other, it is easier to form new lasting habits. You will have formed the habit of exercising for 30 minutes per day over about 9 weeks of time. This is in contrast to setting aside 30 minutes each day to exercise right away, which may be overwhelming and not as easily achieved.

To learn additional tips on forming new habits, take a look at this video by Charles Duhigg, the author of The Power of Habit.

Jenna Koroly, MS, RD, CDN

Jenna is a Registered Dietitian with a Master’s of Science in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology from Teachers College, Columbia University. She has been a part of the Savor Health team since October 2016, and gained further clinical knowledge in oncology while performing nutrition assessments at Northern Westchester Hospital and Amsterdam Nursing Home as a dietetic intern. Jenna provides nutrition counseling for patients in Medical Weight Management and Bariatric Surgery settings at Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston. She is passionate about nutrition therapy and exercise for oncology patients.

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