When fall is in full swing and the kids are settled into their school routine, you’re probably feeling like your life is finally back to normal. The change in season is a natural time to reassess what is and isn’t working in your day-to-day routine because you’re probably already making subtle shifts without realizing it. The days are getting colder and shorter, so it’s natural to adjust. Maybe you need to change your exercise routine now that the days or shorter. Or perhaps the colder weather is making you crave sweets and comfort foods.
Since change is in the air, you’ll want to choose a few new healthy habits to establish instead of falling into less healthy patterns. Here’s how to do it:
Four Steps to Habit Change
Making behavior change stick is hard, but research has found a four-step strategy called WOOP to be successful. Developed by Gabriele Oettingen, a psychology professor at New York University, the acronym WOOP stands for Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan. Wish means you should identify a realistic goal. Outcome means you should envision the ideal results of your wish. Next, you identify the likely Obstacles that might get in your way. Finally, you decide on a specific Plan to get around these obstacles to reach your goal. (Read this article for more details about these four steps).
How to Apply the Steps
What does WOOP look like in practice? Here are two examples:
I want to eat less sugar.
- Wish: You want to limit your consumption to 25 grams of sugar a day, giving yourself a daily intentional treat, but otherwise reserving sweets for special occasions like holidays and parties.
- Outcome: You know that cutting back on sugar could help you lose weight, decrease inflammation, improve your skin, increase energy, and sleep better.
- Obstacle: After some reflection, you realize that you often crave sugar after each meal, when you want dessert, and in the afternoons at work when you’re tired and stressed out.
- Plan: Knowing your obstacles, you plan to take a Sweet Defeat after each meal. You stock your desk with healthy snacks like nuts and pack a daily bag of carrots to keep in the office fridge. You also start carrying Sweet Defeat in your purse for extra support when sugar cravings hit.
I want to exercise more.
- Wish: You want to move more, so you establish a specific, achievable goal: a half-hour workout three times a week.
- Outcome: You know how good exercising is for your body and your mental health. You imagine what it will feel like when you’ve kept up the exercise for several weeks, with a stronger body and a more positive mood throughout the day.
- Obstacle: In the past, you can fit in a workout on the weekend, but have trouble during the week. You’ve planned to exercise after work, but you’re often too tired and hungry, so you skip it.
- Plan: To get past this obstacle, you schedule the workout on your calendar and set reminders for an hour and 15 minutes beforehand, so you don’t leave work late. You pack a healthy snack to eat just before you leave work, so you’re not too hungry to exercise.
Get the most out of the new season and feel better about your lifestyle with small adjustments to your habits. A healthier lifestyle makes for a happier autumn season, giving you the energy and well-being you need to enjoy time with the people you love.