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Understanding your barriers to brain healthy habits – and how to overcome them

Making changes can seem difficult, but thinking about the most common barriers we face and developing ways to overcome them can really help. Here are some tips to help you overcome obstacles as you build new brain healthy habits:

Be ready for challenges: Building habits is a journey, and obstacles are to be expected. First, consider what might get in your way. This could be a busy schedule, a new class you’ve signed up for being cancelled, or a friend inviting you to skip the long walk you were planning. Once you’ve identified your obstacles, think of strategies to overcome them – this is called an ‘If, then’ plan. For example, “IF I don’t have enough time to do the planned walk, THEN I’ll walk around the block.” The more ‘If, then’ plans you create, the more resilient you will become.

Embracing fresh starts: Have you heard of the Fresh Start Effect? We tend to be motivated to make positive changes when we experience a major event or transition, such as the start of a new year. Research shows that the first day of a new month or week can be a great time to set new goals and start fresh. But this doesn’t have to be limited to Mondays. Once we embrace this approach, we may find that each day offers a fresh start, a new beginning, and an opportunity to start again in a positive way.

Design your environment: Identifying any ‘environmental triggers’ you might have and making small changes can make it so much easier to stick to your new brain healthy habits. For example, if you’re trying to eat more healthily, you could keep a fruit bowl on your kitchen counter and store healthy snacks in clear containers at eye level in the fridge.

Create commitments: Are you having trouble staying committed to your goals? If so, you’re not alone. A popular strategy to help with sticking to a plan is to create a commitment device. This is when you do something now that commits you to doing something else in future. For example, scheduling a weekly catch-up with friends so you’re less likely to work late or forget.

Positivity goes a long way: We’re often our own worst critics, and many of us are quick to write ourselves off at the first sign that things aren’t going quite as we’d hoped. But instead of giving up, use setbacks as a chance to grow and improve. You might not have done what you set out to do today, but that’s human, and it means you have a chance to make a fresh start tomorrow and set yourself up for success.

Making changes, whatever they might be, can be challenging. But by understanding and preparing for our own personal obstacles, we can overcome these challenges and make our brain healthy habits stick.

About the author

Samuel Salzer

Behavioural scientist and author

Samuel is an experienced behavioural scientist and author. He advises organisations of all shapes and sizes on how to build great products and services that help people to form habits and make positive change.  

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