How to break bad habits to achieve a healthy lifestyle
April 2021   HEALTHCARE

How to break bad habits to achieve a healthy lifestyle

Good habits are key to improving quality of life. Amongst many other benefits, they help to improve our mood and to optimise the way our bodies work, which certainly plays a large role in preventing health risk factors from appearing.
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Regardless of our health or physical condition, spending time on self-care has a positive effect in terms of mental wellness (increased self-esteem, reduced stress and anxiety, etc.) and also physical wellness (increased energy, better sleep or improved physical fitness, amongst others).

Following a healthy lifestyle spans many aspects of our day-to-day lives.  For this reason, it can be very helpful to learn and to observe these areas from a holistic and cross-sectional approach.  We need to remember that everything that makes up a person's reality (physical and mental health, family and social background, personal finances, support networks and work environment) affect how we feel, act and perceive our surroundings and, as a result, impact upon our whole health. As such, it is only from this global perspective that we can establish the necessary habits in each area to enjoy a good quality of life.

Following a balanced diet and active lifestyle, spending time caring for our mental health or enjoying more good quality sleep are, generally speaking, the things that most people associate with a healthy lifestyle. However, not as many people incorporate these habits into their daily lives. According to the ‘Cigna COVID-19 Global Impact1’ study, only 28% of the world’s population enjoys good quality sleep, 25% take regular physical exercise and another 25% follow a balanced diet. These statistics are an example of the difficulties encountered when maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But why is it so difficult to adopt healthy habits even though the benefits are so well known?

Resolve, perseverance and determination: the backbone of adopting a new habit

The response to this question involves understanding the operation of the human brain and its mechanisms to face unknown circumstances.  Put simply, our brain is programmed to work efficiently, investing the least possible amount of energy. For that reason, our natural response is to attempt to find routine and automation.

This is clear if we examine our daily routine. Generally, acts such as getting up in the morning, brushing your teeth and eating breakfast happen automatically, based on repetition and the large number of times they have been carried out. It takes great effort to break these routines. Habits are forged through repetition from a very early age so that, over time, it is more difficult to change them. For that reason, many people experience problems when incorporating new habits in their daily lives: adopting a new habit involves breaking mental patterns which requires extra mental effort that the brain tries to avoid.

Equally, the context of a person’s life is also decisive.  Adopting a healthy lifestyle depends, on our ways of being, thinking, feeling and acting. For that reason, peoples’ personalities play a crucial role, since aspects such as tenacity or patience come into play, together with the ability to change one’s own view of oneself. As such, to overcome the inertia of automatic responses and to redirect our efforts and attention towards new habits, it will be necessary for them to be incorporated into a new way of being: “I run because I am a runner.”

But to learn to overcome the inertia of routine habits it is very important to learn to pay attention to individual wellbeing from a whole health perspective, such that it is possible to identify the consequences that each habit has on one’s day-to-day life. If we know how to observe the signs sent to us by our central nervous system through our body (muscular tension, sleep habits, irritability, frustration, etc.), we may be able to notice that our habits are inappropriate.

With this in mind, Cigna Europe suggests three key ways to be able to identify bad habits and to transform them into habits that make a positive contribution to well-being, and to adopt a process of change based on resolve, perseverance and determination:

  • Identify areas for improvement. Certain unhealthy habits (for example, an unsuitable diet, the lack of physical exercise or living with very high levels of stress) are usually ingrained and are, therefore, especially difficult to change. For that reason, being able to benefit from external evaluation to identify areas for improvement may be an excellent starting point. To identify where changes should be introduced in our lives, it is advisable to access health and well-being assessments which provide a general diagnosis of our state of health and propose areas for improvement.
  • Introduce new changes to routine periodically. Both the brain and the body have to get used to changes. Adopting healthy routines can be an exciting process, but there may also be times when we feel dejected. When facing difficulties, it can be very helpful to access online coaching services and other tools including telemedicine tools, such as the Cigna Wellbeing®App. This type of solution is very efficient when resolving issues, providing thorough medical information and access to external, specialist evaluation through its telemedicine service. In addition, functionality such as the monitoring of biometric data can be an excellent way to monitor improvements, detect potential issues in a timely way and correct them and, as a result, boost motivation.
  • Be patient and do not become obsessed. When we try to adopt healthy habits, there may be some obstacles in the road (a lack of motivation or financial resources, biases, etc.). These difficulties can arise when we do not fully understand the effectiveness that a habit can have on our lives and the long-term benefits that we can obtain. This lack of understanding can result in frustration if we do not correctly evaluate all the psychological factors that can influence these circumstances. It is therefore very beneficial to have help from health professionals who work as essential support to approach any underlying problems and to make change easier to implement. They also help to offer different strategies tailored to each person’s individual circumstances. In this sense, telemedicine solutions can be a great help, since they offer significant flexibility, providing access to consultations with specialists, psychologists or nutritionists whenever needed.

Companies like Cigna Europe help with the adoption of a healthy lifestyle, providing access to cutting-edge health solutions. Its investment in innovation makes it easier than ever to take control of health from a personalised standpoint, thanks to services such as the online evaluation and coaching programmes, overall well-being plans or the monitoring of chronic diseases.

Equally, Cigna Europe has focused its understanding of people’s health and well-being on a wider and more holistic perspective, covering all factors that influence health (Whole Health). As such, starting from this constantly developing standpoint, it has adapted its service offering, providing access to a wide range of innovative solutions focusing on overall healthcare, on both a personal and an occupational level.

Click on this link for more information and discover everything Cigna can do to care for your health and that of your employees, whatever the size of your company.

Sources:

1 Cigna ‘COVID-19 Global Impact’. Positivity around Vaccine Roll-Out and Anticipated Approval Leads Improved Perceptions on Whole Health. Link

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