When it comes to chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, medication is only part of the solution. Perhaps you and your doctor have discussed lifestyle changes — like eating a healthy diet, getting regular physical activity, and avoiding smoking tobacco — to help manage your condition.
Maybe you’ve tried before — declaring another New Year’s resolution — but without feeling much success. Making a lifestyle change can be hard, especially when you want to change many things at once. Here are some ways to help make healthy habits stick.
Make a plan. Be specific. Want to exercise more? List the time of day when you can be active and for how long. Write everything down, and ask yourself if these activities and goals are realistic for you. If not, start with smaller steps to build healthy habits. Post your plan where you’ll see it.
Start small. After you’ve identified realistic short-term and long-term goals, break them down into small, manageable steps that are specifically defined and can be measured. Making small changes in your lifestyle can make a big difference in how you feel.
Change one behavior at a time. Unhealthy behaviors develop over time, so replacing unhealthy habits with healthy ones requires time. Many people run into roadblocks when they try to change too much too fast. To improve your success, focus on one goal or change at a time. As new healthy behaviors become habits, try to add another goal that works toward the overall change you’re striving for.
Use the buddy system. Find a friend, co-worker, or family member — someone to join you to keep you motivated and accountable. Perhaps it can be someone you can go to the gym with or someone who is also trying to stop smoking. Talk about what you are doing. Consider joining a support group. Sharing your struggles and successes with someone makes the work easier and your goals less intimidating.
If you feel overwhelmed or unable to meet your goals, consider seeking help from others, including a health care professional. They can help you understand the connection between the mind and the body, so that you can address the issues that may be getting in your way.