10 Ways to Create New Habits That Last with Suzy Reading

As the rules and regulations are starting to lift on lockdown, instead of looking back at how things used to be, take advantage of this time and renew your normal. Join our series of experts, practical guides and tools to empower you with the conscious changes you can make. Get inspired learning to care for yourself, others around you, and your wardrobe this summer. To follow the series sign up to our newsletter The Fix, tag The Restory and use #RenewYourNormal with the positive changes and approaches as you bring them into your life.

Kicking off our series Renew Your Normal is Suzy Reading, a Chartered Psychologist who specialises in wellbeing, stress management, and facilitation of healthy lifestyle change. As you start to make your changes in caring for yourself, others around you and your wardrobe, Suzy’s guide will give you the tips and tricks to make sure those changes last.

As we emerge from this extraordinary period there is a golden opportunity to create a bold new chapter of our lives, imbued with real personal purpose. Let’s begin as we mean to go on, mining the silver linings from lockdown and putting those lessons to good use. Use this 10 step plan to create sustainable healthy habits and renew your normal with zest.

1. Lockdown Lessons

While this has been a time of squeeze with many worries and pressures, there have also been some real opportunities for insight and growth. Spend some time reflecting on your recent experiences and ask yourself, how have you grown? What has this experience showed you about yourself, your strengths, and your values? What have you missed? What have been the blessings? Jot these musings down for future reference. Before we create future plans it is useful to reflect on where we’re coming from, seeing our accomplishments, big and small, up to this point.

2. Health Non-Negotiables

Through this time of lockdown, what nourishing activities have sustained you? Commit to continuing these habits, knowing they may need to take a different shape as variables, like available time, evolve. Are there old practices that you’d like to reclaim as they become possible? These form the scaffolding in life that help us function at our optimum. Make a mind map of what you need to feel calm, strong and energetic. We all need decent sleep to function. We all need to nourish with food our mental clarity and make sure we are well watered. We all need to move for mental health. Are there any other health non-negotiables important to you? Maybe it’s time in Nature, connecting with friends, meditative tonics or creative pursuits. Get to know yourself, be honest about what you need and permit yourself to do these things.

3. Intention Setting

Use your reflections from step 1 and 2 to set a loose intention for the ‘next chapter’ of your life. Thinking of it in this light might feel less overwhelming than the ‘new normal’. Be mindful of the language you use and the expectations you have of yourself, avoiding the pressure of ‘should’ and ‘must’. Let this next step be infused with self-compassion. What we’ve all just been through is tough and it’s ok to take your time building your new rhythm. Jot down what would you like this next chapter to be about and why is it important to you? It’s your ‘why’ that will galvanise you along the way.

4. Meet your “Best Self”

Take your intentions off the page and visualise your future you. Conjure this version of you – in your mind’s eye, draw them, journal about them and really get to know them. How do they move through their day, how do they talk to themself, what kind of choices do they make? Every good decision you make now takes you one step closer to being this version of you. You can even have a conversation with them, asking them what they would do in the scenarios you encounter. You might be amazed at the wisdom and willpower you find within.

5. Waves of Change

If you revisit your health non-negotiables mind map from step 2, it’s easy to get swept up in making grand, elaborate plans. Despite good intentions and feeling motivated, attempt too much at once and we lay ourselves vulnerable to ‘willpower fatigue’. Of course, we want to keep going with existing healthy habits but if there are new ones you’d like to build, don’t try and do them all simultaneously, it is simply not sustainable. Instead, aim to create waves of change. Think of aspects of your lifestyle that you’d like to rejuvenate, like nutrition, exercise, social connection or creativity – start with just one.

Break your goals down into one incremental change at a time. Work on this until it is a routine part of life, then embark on the next mini-goal. One new habit at a time, one aspect of life at a time. You might just notice there is a knock-on effect anyway – for example, exercise more and you naturally tend to make healthier food choices.

6. Fall In Love With Sleep

If your sleep has been impaired during the lockdown, you are not alone. Heightened anxiety, the stress of uncertainty, isolation or living in close quarters and it’s no wonder we’re left feeling fried. One of the best ways to boost your self-control is to get a decent night’s sleep. Try these 5 ways to promote better sleep and notice how better sleep helps you make good decisions more often: 

  • Be mindful of your visual and auditory diet through your day. What we listen to, read and watch can ramp up our stress and anxiety levels, making it hard to switch off when our heads hit the pillow. Choose carefully what you take in through your senses and manage your levels of stimulation.
  • Drop your day with some chicken wing shoulder rolls or get down on the floor for some soothing yoga. Try the prayer salute for a form of moving meditation.
  • Spritz some pillow spray and savour the scent – make it a ritual and this forms a powerful primer for your mind and body in preparation for sleep.
  • Tenderly apply some magnesium oil spray onto your feet. The magnesium relaxes your muscles and the ritual of soothing touch is calming.
  • You can’t make yourself sleep, so take the pressure off. Just rest, sleep will come.

7. Fuel Your Decision Making

If you want to make healthy choices, you need to feed your brain. If you find your commitment to your goal wavering, ask yourself when was the last time you had a life-giving snack or a tall glass of water? Hanger is real and it serves no one. Write a list of healthy options to refuel (like bananas, a handful of nuts and seeds, avocado, protein balls) and make sure you are well stocked.

8. Focus Your Mind

We are all at the ransom of our thoughts and some days our minds can feel full of sticky, toxic thinking, doubt or a really nasty inner critic. Rather than trying to clear your mind, which is difficult for anyone, give your mind something constructive to anchor on. This is where mantras can be helpful. If you’re feeling pressed for time, use the phrase ‘I have all the time I need’. If you want to calm down, try ‘I soften into this moment’. If you want to feel full of zest create your own ‘I am’ statement along the lines of ‘I am ready’ or ‘I am full of energy’. Every time your mind wanders back to negativity, repeat your mantra and reaffirm how it is you want to feel, extending a sense of compassion towards yourself. Don’t give yourself a hard time for having less than helpful thoughts, we all have them. A thought it just a thought, not a prophecy. If you don’t like where your mind is taking you, give it a different direction with a mantra. It might be worth considering when you last had a glass of water, ate something life-giving too or had an early night! Be on your own team with kind self-talk and you are one step closer to making those healthy habits stick around for good.

9. Breathe Better to Feel Better

Illustration by Madeline Kate Martinez

Stress is the enemy of willpower and your breath is the instant antidote to stress. Find your calm control by working with the breath. Notice how this helps you weather temptation and brings you into the moment so you can make choices contingent with your values. Nothing fancy required, just take a moment to really notice how it feels to be breathing. Allow the breath to be spacious, moving into your tummy, your sides, your lower back, upper back, chest and collarbones. The movement isn’t just contained in the lungs! Feel your whole torso expand on your in-breath and effortlessly retract back to your centre on the out-breath. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, your breath is your constant companion, check in and let your breath keep you anchored on your path.

10. Check in and Cheer

Review your progress, celebrate and choose your next wave of change. It’s important to have an idea of where you are headed, with goals to lead the way, but equally, it’s energising to take a look at how far you’ve come. Every week stop to reflect on how things are going. What worked for you and what didn’t work so well? There is great energy to be found in acknowledging your wins. Don’t miss out on that mood boost by leaping too quickly onto the next wave of change. Give yourself a pat on the back and feel how empowering this is. It’s not just the outcome that needs recognition but effort too, so if you’re still on the way to achieving that goal, it’s ok! There is time! The best goals are fluid ones, taking into account the available resources, so check in, refine your focus and give yourself the feedback you’d offer to a friend walking in your shoes. Well done, keep going! We’re cheering you on too! 

About Suzy –
Suzy is a mother of two, an author, Chartered Psychologist and Coach. She specialises in self-care, helping people manage their stress, emotions, and energetic bank balance. It was her life experience of motherhood colliding with the terminal illness of her father that sparked her passion for self-care which she now teaches to her clients, young and old, to cope during periods of stress, loss and change and to boost their resilience in the face of future challenges. Suzy is on the editorial board for Motherdom Magazine, the Psychology Expert for wellbeing brand Neom Organics and is a founding member of the ‘Nourish’ app. She figure-skated her way through her childhood, growing up on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, and now makes her home in hills of Hertfordshire, UK. Her first book ‘The Self-Care Revolution’ published by Aster came out in 2017, ‘Stand Tall Like a Mountain: Mindfulness & Self-Care for Children and Parents‘ and ‘The Little Book of Self-Care’ came out in 2019 and her new book ‘Self-Care for Tough Times’ is hot off the press.
Follow her community over on her Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or visit her website.