How To: Develop a Healthy Routine

If there are two things I can say, without the slightest bit of doubt in my mind, it is that:

  1. Geeks are smart.
  2. Geeks have great terrible self-control. (As in the movie version of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” terrible!)

Everyone has routines, it is simple human nature. The problem is that a lot of them suck and are just not that healthy! Essentially routines are just complex strings of habits; and once you have a bad routine locked in, just like with a bad habit, it is really hard to break out of it. So why is it so hard, and what can an aspiring Jerd do to fix it?!?

First we have to understand why we develop these bad habits in the first place.

Bad habits form because of the short-term reward they provide; it’s that simple. Be it the tasty goodness that biting into a candy bar provides you or the comfort of your couch after a long day at work when you know you should be working out, there is a definite immediate satisfaction that your brain becomes addicted to. We all know it! We all recognize we have these bad habits and chastise ourselves for them, but we also wouldn’t have them if they didn’t provide us some form of benefit.

Step #1 – Set Goals

Before you can affect change in your daily/weekly/monthly routines you must have a clear understanding of what you are trying to accomplish. I continue to harp on this (it’s my blog, I can do what I want!) over and over but one of the best exercises you can do for yourself is to sit down with a pen and paper and write down your goals. (For more awesome advice on goal setting make sure you check out How To: Set Your Fitness Goals!)

The key here is be as specific as possible; broad and nebulous goals like “I want to eat healthier” aren’t going to cut it! Examine your existing routines and come up with something specific… for example the process could look like this:

  1. Establish desired goal – I want to eat healthier.
  2. Examine daily routines that impede that goal – I am always rushing in the morning, so I stop at the Mooby’s drive-thru for a Feed Bag on my way to work (and consequently feel like Bruce Lee kicked me in the colon.)
  3. Write down adjusted routine and new goal – Make sure I have stuff for breakfast in the kitchen every night, set alarm clock 20 minutes earlier, always eat a healthy breakfast before leaving the house.

If you find that still isn’t cutting it, reverse engineer some more until you find the flaw in your routine that is contributing to the habit you are trying to break. Maybe setting the alarm earlier won’t cut it because you stay up until 2 A.M. shooting your friends in the face playing Xbox Live and you are just too tired? Then perhaps you need to force yourself to go to bed an hour earlier so you can get up in time to eat a better breakfast.

Step #2 – Re-Program Yourself

Think of yourself like a computer. Seriously, force yourself to examine your life in 0s and 1s. Computers don’t reason, they don’t rationalize or justify things in their CPU to change their behavior so they can experience a short-term reward (SkyNet, if you are reading this I apologize and ask forgiveness from our new robot overlords. All hail SkyNet!)

Once you have established your goals it is time to write yourself a simple mental computer program to govern your life.

“Live like a computer for one month and I promise you will see a positive change!”

If X, then Y.

That’s it. It is that simple. If you tell a computer to do something, it does it; no hemming and hawing, no saying “I will get to it next time“, no crying that something is too hard. Just if X, then Y.

Remove all choice from your personal programming until your decisions become automatic.  After writing down your goals, write down the computer program that will govern your decision-making process.  Here are some examples:

  • If I eat breakfast, then it will be something I fix myself.
  • If I get sluggish during the work day, then I will get up and go for a 10 minute stroll.
  • If I go grocery shopping, then I will stay out of the snack aisle.
  • If I come home from work, then I will immediately do my workout before turning on my Xbox.
  • If I plan on losing weight, then I will only eat THESE foods. (See this article on tip for getting started with healthy eating)

Instead of fighting yourself every day, just sit back and revel in the simplicity of your life being run like a computer program. Just tell yourself “This is just what I do now” and enjoy the ride.

Step #3 – Don’t Get Frustrated

Honestly, this is the hardest part of being healthy in today’s world; there is just so much going on, so many outside stimuli constantly vying for attention, it is almost impossible to not develop some sort of ADD when it comes to what we spend our time on. I get it. No-one said it was going to be easy! The human mind is a tricky adversary and trying to figure out why you are failing at a healthy life is going to take Batman-like deductive reasoning skills more than likely. Luckily the great thing about routines is once you get into good ones you can almost settle into auto-follow mode and worry about other things!

If you are struggling staying on track, if you aren’t seeing the benefits to your new-found dedication to living a healthy life yet, if you are struggling with your workouts – Just remember that you have years of sucky life routines to reverse! You are not beholden forever to your past bad decisions, you are not a slave to your routine, your life decisions are not being made by someone else for you. You are in control, you just need to take it!

So. What are you going to do about it?

Don’t be afraid to reach out for advice, encouragement, ideas, etc… the Jerd is always here for you. Drop a comment below or reach me on Facebook or Twitter.

 

 

 

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5 replies
  1. Retha Groenewald
    Retha Groenewald says:

    Awesome post. I like the comparison with the computer. I use a stop-doing-list which removes the clutter and bad habits while feeling you are accomplishing something. And you are because you are removing the excess, unnecessary stuff. Thanks, for insightful post.

    Reply

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  2. […] started eating clean and getting into a workout routine. But it wasn’t an easy transition for […]

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