Install foundational habits
Ensure you have the energy, willpower, and awareness to realize your goals.
Do This Now
- Check in with yourself and assess your energy, willpower, and awareness. If you feel lacking, consider prioritizing a ‘foundational’ habit like sleep, diet / exercise, or mindfulness, respectively.
- In terms of efficacy, anecdotally, fix sleep first, then diet, then mindfulness, then exercise.
- von Haaren, Birte, et al. “Does a 20-week aerobic exercise training programme increase our capabilities to buffer real-life stressors? A randomized, controlled trial using ambulatory assessment.” European Journal of Applied Physiology 116.2 (2016): 383-394.
- Exercise appears to be a useful preventive strategy to buffer the effects of stress.
- van Dongen, Eelco V., et al. “Physical Exercise Performed Four Hours after Learning Improves Memory Retention and Increases Hippocampal Pattern Similarity during Retrieval.” Current Biology (2016).
- Performing aerobic exercise 4 hr after learning improved associative memory.
- Spring, Bonnie, et al. “Clinical Trial of a Mobile Health Intervention for Simultaneous versus Sequential Diet and Activity Change.” CIRCULATION. Vol. 132. No. 23. TWO COMMERCE SQ, 2001 MARKET ST, PHILADELPHIA, PA 19103 USA: LIPPINCOTT WILLIAMS & WILKINS, 2015.
- A mobile health intervention produced sustained improvements in multiple diet and activity lifestyle behaviors regardless of whether physical activity is targeted simultaneously or sequentially with other diet and activity behaviors.
- Driver, Steven, et al. “Ideal Cardiovascular Health and Employee Productivity.” Circulation 132.Suppl 3 (2015): A19252-A19252.
- Self-reported higher cardiovascular health was strongly associated with better employee productivity as measured by fewer sick days and better concentration at work.
- Papies, Esther K., Lawrence W. Barsalou, and Ruud Custers. “Mindful attention prevents mindless impulses.” Social Psychological and Personality Science 3.3 (2012): 291-299.
- Mindful attention prevents impulses toward attractive food.
- Spring, Bonnie, et al. “Multiple behavior changes in diet and activity: a randomized controlled trial using mobile technology.” Archives of internal medicine 172.10 (2012): 789-796.
- Targeting fruits/vegetables and sedentary leisure together maximizes overall adoption and maintenance of multiple healthy behavior changes.
- Oaten, Megan, and Ken Cheng. “Improvements in self-control from financial monitoring.” Journal of Economic Psychology 28.4 (2007): 487-501.
- Repeated practice of self-control improved regulatory strength over time.
- Netz, Y., et al. “The effect of a single aerobic training session on cognitive flexibility in late middle-aged adults.” International journal of sports medicine 28.01 (2007): 82-87.
- Partial support for the benefit of acute aerobic exercise on cognitive flexibility.
- Oaten, Megan, and Ken Cheng. “Longitudinal gains in self‐regulation from regular physical exercise.” British journal of health psychology 11.4 (2006): 717-733.
- The uptake and maintenance of an exercise programme over a 2-month period produced significant improvements in a wide range of regulatory behaviours.
- Colcombe, Stanley, and Arthur F. Kramer. “Fitness effects on the cognitive function of older adults a meta-analytic study.” Psychological science 14.2 (2003): 125-130.
- Fitness training was found to have robust but selective benefits for cognition, with the largest fitness-induced benefits occurring for executive-control processes.
- Marcus, Bess H., et al. “Physical activity behavior change: issues in adoption and maintenance.” Health Psychology 19.1S (2000): 32.
- A summary of what is known about the maintenance of physical activity behavior in adults and youth and how physical activity behavior relates to other health behaviors such as smoking.
- Murphy, Timothy J., Robert R. Pagano, and G. Alan Marlatt. “Lifestyle modification with heavy alcohol drinkers: effects of aerobic exercise and meditation.” Addictive behaviors 11.2 (1986): 175-186.
- Subjects in the exercise condition significantly reduced their alcohol consumption compared to the no-treatment control condition.
- Blair, Steven N., David R. Jacobs Jr, and Kenneth E. Powell. “Relationships between exercise or physical activity and other health behaviors.” Public health reports 100.2 (1985): 172.
- Physical activity may indirectly influence health behaviors such as overeating, smoking, substance abuse, stress management, risk taking, and others.
Install foundational mindsets
Enabling mindsets make the mental challenges of habit change easier.
Do This Now
- Find opportunities to express gratitude to yourself for your new habits, like gratitude journaling.
- Commit to take full responsibility for your choices and actions, every single day (and let the outcomes go).
- Remember that all progress is positive, regardless of where you set your expectations.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff; focus on what really matters.
- Develop a ‘growth’ mindset to create more resilience.
- “Keep our eyes on the prize” to improve your performance and your feelings about the experience.
- If you are having trouble believing you can change, see ‘Establish support’.
- Mills, Paul J., et al. “The role of gratitude in spiritual well-being in asymptomatic heart failure patients.” Spirituality in clinical practice 2.1 (2015): 5.
- Gratitude and spiritual well-being are related to better mood and sleep, less fatigue, and more self-efficacy, and that gratitude fully or partially mediates the beneficial effects of spiritual well-being on these endpoints. Efforts to increase gratitude may be a treatment for improving well-being in HF patients’ lives and be of potential clinical value.
- Hernandez, Rosalba, et al. “Optimism and cardiovascular health: multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis (MESA).” Health behavior and policy review 2.1 (2015): 62-73.
- We offer evidence for a cross-sectional association between optimism and cardiovascular health.
- Patrick, Vanessa M., and Henrik Hagtvedt. ““I Don’t” versus “I Can’t”: When Empowered Refusal Motivates Goal-Directed Behavior.” Journal of Consumer Research 39.2 (2012): 371-381.
- The language we use to describe our choices serves as a feedback mechanism that either enhances or impedes our goal-directed behavior. Specifically, this paper investigates the influence of a linguistic element of self-talk, in which a refusal may be framed as “I don’t” (vs. “I can’t”), on resisting temptation and motivating goal-directed behavior.
- Neff, Kristin D. “Self‐compassion, self‐esteem, and well‐being.” Social and personality psychology compass 5.1 (2011): 1-12.
- Self-compassion provides greater emotional resilience and stability than self-esteem.
- Wohl, Michael JA, Timothy A. Pychyl, and Shannon H. Bennett. “I forgive myself, now I can study: How self-forgiveness for procrastinating can reduce future procrastination.” Personality and Individual Differences 48.7 (2010): 803-808.
- Students reporting high levels of self-forgiveness for procrastinating on studying for the first examination reduced procrastination on preparing for the subsequent examination.
- Tullett, Alexa M., and Michael Inzlicht. “The voice of self-control: Blocking the inner voice increases impulsive responding.” Acta psychologica 135.2 (2010): 252-256.
- The inner voice helps us to exert self-control by enhancing our ability to restrain our impulses.
- Schmeichel, Brandon J., and Kathleen Vohs. “Self-affirmation and self-control: affirming core values counteracts ego depletion.” Journal of personality and social psychology 96.4 (2009): 770.
- A psychological intervention—self-affirmation—facilitates self-control when the resource has been depleted.
- Schwarzer, Ralf. “Modeling health behavior change: How to predict and modify the adoption and maintenance of health behaviors.” Applied Psychology 57.1 (2008): 1-29.
- The main addition of the Health Action Process Approach to previous models lies in the inclusion of two volitional factors: volitional self-efficacy (either maintenance or recovery self-efficacy) and strategic planning (either action or coping planning).
- Neff, Kristin D. “The development and validation of a scale to measure self-compassion.” Self and identity 2.3 (2003): 223-250.
- Self-compassion is significantly correlated with positive mental health outcomes such as less depression and anxiety and greater life satisfaction.
- Wenzlaff, Richard M., and Daniel M. Wegner. “Thought suppression.” Annual review of psychology 51.1 (2000): 59-91.
- Thought suppression can be counterproductive, helping assure the very state of mind one had hoped to avoid.
- Polivy, Janet. “The effects of behavioral inhibition: Integrating internal cues, cognition, behavior, and affect.” Psychological Inquiry 9.3 (1998): 181-204.
- Suppression might produce health problems, negative affect, cognitive disruption, and eventual behavioral excess.
- Heatherton, Todd F., and Patricia A. Nichols. “Personal accounts of successful versus failed attempts at life change.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 20.6 (1994): 664-675.
- Attributions of internal control and blaming external events for failure were strongly associated with reports of successful change.
- Wegner, Daniel M., et al. “Paradoxical effects of thought suppression.” Journal of personality and social psychology 53.1 (1987): 5.
- Attempted thought suppression has paradoxical effects as a self-control strategy, perhaps even producing the very obsession or preoccupation that it is directed against.
- Strecher, Victor J., et al. “The role of self-efficacy in achieving health behavior change.” Health Education & Behavior 13.1 (1986): 73-92.
- Strong relationships between self-efficacy and health behavior change and maintenance.
- Dweck, Carol S. “The role of expectations and attributions in the alleviation of learned helplessness.” Journal of personality and social psychology 31.4 (1975): 674.
- A procedure which taught the helpless children to take responsibility for failure and to attribute it to lack of effort resulted in maintained or improved performance after failure, and showed an increase in the degree to which they emphasized insufficient motivation versus ability as a determinant of failure.