Category: motivation


By Olivia Matsell

Habits are, unsurprisingly, habitual. And we fall into routine of behaviours from the moment we wake up to when we go to bed. Be it how we take our cup of coffee to brushing our teeth before we go to bed. But how do we make sure these everyday tasks are meaningful? 

Building good habits in our life takes time and patience. But knowing where to begin and what to do can often be the most difficult part.  

Did you know that habits account for around 40% of our behaviours on any given day? That’s without us even knowing. 

And as the 2023 gets underway, people will likely be looking to make a kickstart their New Year’s resolutions.  

So, what is a habit? James Clear, author of New York Times bestseller Atomic Habits, explains “habits are the small decisions you make and actions you perform every day”.   

Adopting new, positive habits not only makes you feel good but may protect you from health problems and encourage you to live a healthier lifestyle, the NIH (National Institute of Health) tells us.  

And, according to Clear, we can fully integrate a new habit in your day-to-day life in an average of 66 days (around two months). 

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to successfully adopt a healthy habit.  

1. Start small 

“There are a number of reasons why people find it difficult to stick to their resolutions, and many of these are founded in behavioural science,” says Dr Katie Tryon. 

“Many of us are overconfident, which means we overestimate our ability to achieve certain resolutions and do not anticipate challenges we may face along the way, so we eventually give up.” 

But by reframing how we take on resolutions can make the goals we set ourselves much more, not only manageable, but achievable. One way to overcome this is to start small and set ourselves “micro-resolutions”, says Dr Katie. 

By definition a micro, or ‘mini’, resolution is a behaviour that we commit to for four weeks. Not done in isolation, however, these can ladder up to a macro-resolution, such as eating healthier or exercising more.

She adds: “With micro-resolutions, it is far easier to estimate the effort required to achieve them and easier to plan for in our normal day-to-day life, so this overcomes any issues of overconfidence and poor planning.” 

Dr Katie acknowledges, though, that in order to achieve our goals, we must also overcome something known as hyperbolic discounting.  

This is when we choose smaller, more immediate rewards over those that come later and require more effort.  

If the end-goal achieved through making a change is far in the future (like health improvement), it is helpful to give yourself small things – like little rewards – to keep you motivated along the way, she adds.  

“Small and consistent short-term changes can result in habit formation, which is the key to long term behavioural change.” 

You can also make it easier to stick to your micro-resolution by being realistic about how you will fit your new challenge into your day, depending on your personality.

“For example, if you are not a morning person, it may be better to do physical activity later in the day otherwise you will always dread it.”

2. Remove what doesn’t support you 

To avoid getting into situations that can steer you towards bad habits, it can be worth removing the activities that can trigger this type of behaviour.  

For example, if you tend to hit snooze every morning, placing your alarm away from reach will trigger you to get out of bed in order to turn it off, this way you’re already out of bed and you can begin your day. 

Drinking a glass of water after you wake up can also help you rise on a morning as your body starts to activate itself.

3. Establish a routine 

Rebecca Patterson, Personal Growth and Acquisition Mentor at Forbes explains: “It’s an absolute fact that if you can learn to do something consistently, you will discover much greater strengths and opportunities within yourself than you could have ever imagined.” 

Having consistency with your new habits is a powerful tool to support changing your behaviour.  

Once you’ve defined your healthy habits consider what time of day to do them and commit to them. 

And, what a better time to kick off new habits than the New Year.  

Research shows that more people are likely to visit the gym around fresh-start dates, such as the beginning of the year. 

4. Set a checkpoint to review your progress 

Tracking your progress and celebrating the small wins are important. 

These help to keep you motivated.  

Journalling or using a habit-tracker app, such as Habitica, can support you in measuring your success. 

And, if you find yourself wandering off track, that’s ok, too.  

It would be nice to be able to skip the hard work and experience the benefits straight away, but by being patient and dealing with the unexpected can often be the most rewarding part of the journey. 

Keep reminding yourself why you’re investing time and effort into that habit. A good way to do this is by leaving post-it notes around your house, or on your bathroom mirror, so you can be reminded of your why you are committing to this habit.   

5. Have a partner in crime 

Finding a support network around you encourages, not only you to continue to form new habits, but motivates you to exceed them.  

For example, if you choose to increase the number of times you do physical activity a week having someone to do it with has been found to up the intensity of your workout by 200%, according to findings from Kansas State University

Having someone to support you with your new habit will help you to succeed

Alongside forming meaningful habits, having someone to talk to and seeking support can be incredibly beneficial for your mental health and improves your mood

Ready for more?

If you’re feeling ready to take on more than one habit (otherwise known as ‘habit stacking’), remember to follow this process above and keep it simple so that you avoid feeling overwhelmed, stressed and burnt out with too much on your plate.

A final word from Dr Katie: “Small and consistent short term changes can result in habit formation, which is the key to long term behaviour change.

“We are all creatures of habit, and once changes are embedded in our habits, we are far more likely to stick to them.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day. The best thing is to develop micro resolutions, that can really become habits going forwards, as then you will stick to it.”

A smartwatch can keep your health on track

Wellness tracker - Health Features On Some Smartwatches - Infographic - Amy Myers MD®

Smartwatches have become a hugely popular way to monitor activity and track other health metrics. A basic one will record your daily steps, distance covered and calorie intake.

More advanced versions will monitor heart rate and sleep patterns, track sports activities and some will even help you take an ECG. They can be a great motivational tool for many.

Regardless of where you look, wellness trackers and smartwatches are everywhere. Watches have become more than an accessory or a way to tell time. Nowadays, you’re wearing a small computer on your wrist that works as a communication device, time keeper, and even a wellness tracker. 

Depending on the brand and series of your wellness tracker smartwatch, it can offer a variety of features you can use as feedback on health status. Wellness tracker smartwatches come in a variety of styles and price usually depends on the range of functions. Here are 3

Amazfit GTS 2 mini

Amazfit GTS 2 mini

| 60+ Sports Modes | High-precision GPS, Amazon Alexa Built-in | Blood-oxygen Level Measurement | Sleep Quality Monitoring | 24/7 Heart Rate Tracking 


Fitbit Inspire 2

Health & Fitness Tracker with a Free 1-Year Fitbit Premium Trial, 24/7 Heart Rate & up to 10 Days


Apple Watch Series 7

(GPS, 41mm) – Midnight Aluminium Case with Midnight Sport Band – Regular – requires iphone 6s or later, can take ECG




Comfortable couch near table in apartment

A comfort zone is a safe, familiar place where risk and fear of the unknown are minimised. It’s easy to become comfortable enough in this secure zone that taking steps outside of it can feel daunting and might initially bring on feelings of fear or anxiety.

However, some of the best things in life often happen once we ride those nervous waves, and accomplish something that we never thought we could.

So How Do We End Up in a Comfort Zone?

There’s some science behind the concept of ‘comfort zones’ which helps to explain how they are formed, and why it can be tempting for us to stay there.

Research shows that once our brains become used to performing an action (after repeating it many times), their learning centres shut down, and we no longer have to put as much conscious effort into the task in question. When this happens, the action becomes comfortable, and we can often perform it in “autopilot mode.”

For example, you might have three dinner options that you rotate through every week, and because these meals are so familiar to you, perhaps you no longer think about how the food tastes, or about the steps of the cooking process. Or perhaps you’ve become very comfortable at work, so much so that you can happily complete tasks while thinking about other things.

Repeating these familiar tasks and being able to somewhat switch off from our surroundings can lead us into a comfort zone – and the longer we stay here, the harder it can be for us to leave. Comfort zones tend to offer us security and predictability, so swapping this for uncertainty and risk can be tricky.

It’s important to remember that there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with staying in your comfort zone, but that achieving personal growth in your comfort zone can be difficult. It’s usually when we challenge ourselves to try new things (even when we aren’t sure how they will pan out) that we experience the biggest sense of satisfaction, pride, and accomplishment. We can also learn more about who we are, move closer to our goals, and gain confidence in our ability.

6 Ways to Encourage Personal Growth

If you want to start taking steps outside of your comfort zone but feel nervous about doing so, then hopefully the following six tips will help. Try to keep in mind that even small steps can go a long way in helping us to break free from boredom, monotony, and self-limiting thoughts.

Move Towards Your Fears

Having goals and ambitions can be exciting but it can also be scary – often because we are worried about failure or about what other people might think. Sometimes, we might also find it difficult to cope with the fact that we cannot predict the specific outcome of an action that feels unfamiliar to us.

When this happens, it can feel tempting to avoid the thing that is making us feel fearful and to play it safe by taking no action at all or performing an alternative more familiar action instead.

However, when we overcome fear by facing the thing that scares us and defeating it, we become more resilient and will often feel stronger and better able to cope with whatever comes our way as a result. In most cases, the only way we can move past fear and not let it hold us back is to feel the fear and do the thing that scares us anyway.

Plus, there’s a fine line between fear and excitement. So next time you feel nervous or scared, why not tell yourself that you’re actually just excited instead? You might be surprised at how effective this can be at taking the edge off your fear.

Learn Something New

Life itself is a huge learning curve, and if we choose to, we can continue learning for as long as we live. What you choose to learn is completely up to you – perhaps you’ve always wanted to learn a language, complete a degree, or take up a craft. Learning new skills can take courage, determination, and patience, but the rewards are nearly always worth it.

Learning new skills can benefit us in multiple ways from acting as conversation starters when meeting new people to giving us more job opportunities, through adding meaning and purpose to our lives.

Be Spontaneous

It’s easy to spend ample time overthinking something that we want to do, whether it’s going to dinner with a group of friends, going for that first run in several years or months – or applying for that new job.

While it’s important to put some level of thought into larger decisions, i.e., whether you can financially afford to take a new job once it’s offered to you, whether you should stay with a partner, or whether you should sell your house – putting too much into everything can lead to nothing happening at all.

When we spend excessive amounts of time thinking and planning, it’s easy to talk ourselves out of situations, even ones that we initially felt good about. We can avoid this by putting a limit on the amount of time we allow ourselves to mull something over, and trusting our gut instinct more.

Introduce Yourself to Someone New

Getting to know new people is a helpful way to step outside of your comfort zone and open new doors in life. People are fascinating, and a conversation with someone new can take many interesting turns. Connecting with others introduces us to new perspectives, hobbies, friends, ideas, jobs, and the list goes on.

Many times, the reason that we feel hesitant about the idea of mixing with new people is that we feel worried about the fear of judgment, and we might ask ourselves questions such as: Will I be liked? What will I say? Or, what if it’s awkward?

However, this is usually our inner critic talking, and once we learn to challenge these questions by answering them positively, and deciding to meet people anyway, then we usually feel less worried and more excited about the idea of meeting new people. It can help to start small. So why not commit to introducing yourself to one new person a month, either online or in person?

Go on an Adventure

Exploring new places is a wonderful way to step outside of your comfort zone, while collecting lots of lasting memories to boot. When we go on adventures, we experience the world in new ways, through the different sights, sounds, cultures, and people that we meet along the way.

When we are in unfamiliar territory, we tend to become much more in tune with our surroundings, while we try to soak them in – which is why people often head off travelling when they want to shake up their life or feel more alive.

There are various different ways that you could plan an adventure, and just how adventurous you want to get is up to you. Perhaps you’d just like to visit somewhere that you’ve never been before, or maybe you’d like to really spice things up by adding in a challenging activity like bungee jumping, wild camping, or white water rafting.

Keep an Open Mind and Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

If you want to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new but you’re worried about what might happen when you do, then one of the most helpful things you can do is to keep an open mind. Part of keeping an open mind involves letting go of expectation and accepting that you don’t know what the outcome will be, and that this is okay.

Keeping an open mind also means seeing every situation as a chance to learn and grow, rather than an opportunity to either succeed or fail. Even if something doesn’t turn out how you hoped it would, this doesn’t necessarily make it a failure. As Oprah Winfrey once said, “There’s no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.”

Letting go of our fear of failure can be an incredibly liberating experience because the sky becomes the limit, and the world becomes your oyster.

Have you stepped outside of your comfort zone recently? What’s the most challenging, yet rewarding thing you’ve done? Do you have any additional tips to share on stepping outside of your comfort zone?

Can you carry on exercising when your motivation slips, the weather gets worse or your schedule becomes overwhelming?

Work out why, don’t just work out

Our reasons for beginning to exercise are fundamental to whether we will keep it up, says Michelle Segar, the director of the University of Michigan’s Sport, Health and Activity Research and Policy Center. Too often “society promotes exercise and fitness by hooking into short-term motivation, guilt and shame”. There is some evidence, she says, that younger people will go to the gym more if their reasons are appearance-based, but past our early 20s that doesn’t fuel motivation much. Nor do vague or future goals help (“I want to get fit, I want to lose weight”). We will probably be more successful if we focus on immediate positive feelings such as stress reduction, increased energy and making friends. “The only way we are going to prioritise time to exercise is if it is going to deliver some kind of benefit that is truly compelling and valuable to our daily life,” she says.

Get off to a slow start

The danger of the typical New Year resolutions approach to fitness, says personal trainer Matt Roberts, is that people “jump in and do everything – change their diet, start exercising, stop drinking and smoking – and within a couple of weeks they have lost motivation or got too tired. If you haven’t been in shape, it’s going to take time.” He likes the trend towards high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and recommends people include some, “but to do that every day will be too intense for most people”. Do it once (or twice, at most) a week, combined with slow jogs, swimming and fast walks – plus two or three rest days, at least for the first month. “That will give someone a chance of having recovery sessions alongside the high-intensity workouts.”

You don’t have to love it

It is helpful not to try to make yourself do things you actively dislike, says Segar, who advises thinking about the types of activities – roller-skating? Bike riding? – you liked as a child. But don’t feel you have to really enjoy exercise. “A lot of people who stick with exercise say: ‘I feel better when I do it.’” There are elements that probably will be enjoyable, though, such as the physical response of your body and the feeling of getting stronger, and the pleasure that comes with mastering a sport.

“For many people, the obvious choices aren’t necessarily the ones they would enjoy,” says Sniehotta, who is also the director of the National Institute for Health Research’s policy research unit in behavioural science, “so they need to look outside them. It might be different sports or simple things, like sharing activities with other people.”

Be kind to yourself

Individual motivation – or the lack of it – is only part of the bigger picture. Money, parenting demands or even where you live can all be stumbling blocks, says Sniehotta. Tiredness, depression, work stress or ill family members can all have an impact on physical activity. “If there is a lot of support around you, you will find it easier to maintain physical activity,” he points out. “If you live in certain parts of the country, you might be more comfortable doing outdoor physical activity than in others. To conclude that people who don’t get enough physical activity are just lacking motivation is problematic.”

Segar suggests being realistic. “Skip the ideal of going to the gym five days a week. Be really analytical about work and family-related needs when starting, because if you set yourself up with goals that are too big, you will fail and you’ll feel like a failure. At the end of a week, I always ask my clients to reflect on what worked and what didn’t. Maybe fitting in a walk at lunch worked, but you didn’t have the energy after work to do it.”

Don’t rely on willpower

“If you need willpower to do something, you don’t really want to do it,” says Segar. Instead, think about exercise “in terms of why we’re doing it and what we want to get from physical activity. How can I benefit today? How do I feel when I move? How do I feel after I move?”

Find a purpose

Anything that allows you to exercise while ticking off other goals will help, says Sniehotta. “It provides you with more gratification, and the costs of not doing it are higher.” For instance, walking or cycling to work, or making friends by joining a sports club, or running with a friend. “Or the goal is to spend more time in the countryside, and running helps you do that.”

Try to combine physical activity with something else. “For example, in my workplace I don’t use the lift and I try to reduce email, so when it’s possible I walk over to people,” says Sniehotta. “Over the course of the day, I walk to work, I move a lot in the building and I actually get about 15,000 steps. Try to make physical activity hit as many meaningful targets as you can.”

Make it a habit

When you take up running, it can be tiring just getting out of the door – where are your shoes? Your water bottle? What route are you going to take? After a while, points out Sniehottta, “there are no longer costs associated with the activity”. Doing physical activity regularly and planning for it “helps make it a sustainable behaviour”. Missing sessions doesn’t.

Plan and prioritise

What if you don’t have time to exercise? For many people, working two jobs or with extensive caring responsibilities, this can undoubtedly be true, but is it genuinely true for you? It might be a question of priorities, says Sniehotta. He recommends planning: “The first is ‘action planning’, where you plan where, when and how you are going to do it and you try to stick with it.” The second type is ‘coping planning’: “anticipating things that can get in the way and putting a plan into place for how to get motivated again”. Segar adds: “Most people don’t give themselves permission to prioritise self-care behaviours like exercise.”

Keep it short and sharp

A workout doesn’t have to take an hour, says Roberts. “A well-structured 15-minute workout can be really effective if you really are pressed for time.” As for regular, longer sessions, he says: “You tell yourself you’re going to make time and change your schedule accordingly.”

If it doesn’t work, change it

It rains for a week, you don’t go running once and then you feel guilty. “It’s a combination of emotion and lack of confidence that brings us to the point where, if people fail a few times, they think it’s a failure of the entire project,” says Sniehotta. Remember it’s possible to get back on track.

If previous exercise regimes haven’t worked, don’t beat yourself up or try them again – just try something else, he says. “We tend to be in the mindset that if you can’t lose weight, you blame it on yourself. However, if you could change that to: ‘This method doesn’t work for me, let’s try something different,’ there is a chance it will be better for you and it prevents you having to blame yourself, which is not helpful.”

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