How to form healthy habits and stop feeling guilty about slacking off

Proactive Health

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By pH health care professionals

Do you suffer from health guilt? It’s that uneasy pit in your stomach when the latest headlines say your bad habits are setting you up for all kinds of diseases. Or when your oh-so-healthy friend posts yet another photo of her dramatic weight loss. Or when you “Netflix and chill” instead of going to the gym, again. You feel bad and think, “I should do something about this.” But hey, life gets in the way. We’ve all been there! An interesting NPR article calls out all this health guilt.  

Guess what? It’s really not helping you get any healthier!

Simply wanting to change behaviors that increase your risk for health issues isn’t enough to get most people to actually follow through, says Kent State University Psychology Professor John Updegraff, the article says.

But, good news: There are some techniques you can try to take that step toward better health.

First, give yourself a break and try self-affirmation

We want to feel good about ourselves, NPR points out, which is why we’d rather tune out information that makes us feel bad about our decisions.

Getting important health information is more effective when you build yourself up. A study published in 2014 examined existing research on the subject and found that self-affirmation techniques combined with persuasive health information helped people decide to change and actually go through with it. Goodbye self-loathing. Hello self-affirmation.

Next time you feel guilty, remind yourself that you’re a good person who is trying their best. Falling short of a weight loss goal or skipping your workout -- these things don’t define you.

Another idea to stick with your healthy habits? Reward yourself

Financial incentives have been shown to be effective tools for improving health habits -- from smoking cessation to healthier eating. StickK and HealthyWage are two companies NPR suggested, which allow you to essentially place bets on yourself. You can also DIY by setting rewards for yourself for each milestone you achieve.

You can also reward yourself with a favorite activity that you permit yourself to do only while working out, NPR says, like listening to your favorite audiobook or podcast. It’s calling “temptation bundling” -- bundling something you don’t want to do with something you love to do. The effects may dim over time, but keeping the reward fresh and desirable may keep you motivated long enough to form new habits!

Enjoy Your Healthy Life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. To learn more about the pH Health Care Team, click here.