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How to train your brain into making healthier choices

The VITL Nutrition Team / May 3, 2018

We all try our best to be as healthy as we can be, but it's not easy making new habits and it can be even harder breaking old ones. Here's how to cheat the brain into better health in 8 easy steps.

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Often when we make the decision to change an aspect of our lifestyle, we are motivated, excited and have an important end goal. Unfortunately, over time, life can get in the way and our self-restraint and willpower may diminish.

This explains why most people will break their diets and give into cravings in the late afternoon or evenings, and perhaps choose the sofa over the gym.

The majority of what we do is dictated by the subconscious mind. So whilst we think we are consciously making choices about our everyday actions, the truth is the majority of what we do is dictated by our subconscious. This is why you are able to automatically brush your teeth or ride your bike without thinking about it!

So, if you consciously decide to create a new habit, in order to make that habit stick you need to train your unconscious by creating a new neural pathway. With this stuck in your subconscious, it becomes second-nature. That way, motivation and willpower are no longer needed, perfect!

Here are 8 steps to help turn your desired activity into a habit. 

1. Set yourself achievable goals

We all want a quick fix, but we have to make sure it's realistic to what you can achieve. Don’t try to change everything at once, focus on one or two at a time.

2. Use triggers 

Triggers act as cues to your subconscious to do a certain action. Use these to your advantage and make cues to a positive task. For example, laying out your gym clothes ready for the morning or when you come home as a visual cue to work out. 

3. Replacement 

Breaking a bad habit, like snacking your favourite chocolate bar in the afternoon, is much easier if you replace it with something else. Replace it with a snack that is still sweet (so we can satisfy those pesky cravings) but with healthy balanced low GI sugars and protein. Trick your subconscious into this new change! 

4. Set yourself a reminder 

Help yourself out by giving yourself little reminders, for example with sticky notes on the front of your fridge or notes in your diary. Doing the same task at the same time every day, with the same reminder will help to make the habit form quicker. 

5. Timing 

The early bird catches the worm. An oldie, but a goodie! We are naturally more motivated earlier in the day, so aiming to start these new habits in the morning can be helpful. Like going for a run or meditating in the morning! 

6. Be prepared 

Make sure you are organised and have everything you need to make sure you can achieve your goal. This might mean having time available, the ingredients, or the clothes you need to reach that target. 

7. Convenience 

In this fast-paced modern world, we are looking to find ways to make life more and more convenient. Pre-plan your meals or streaming fitness classes into your own home can help to make life more convenient. 

8. Keep it fun! 

Without fun you’ll never stick to anything. You could try and make your goal sociable by teaming up with a friend. Or instead of running on the treadmill, try joining a zumba or dance class! 

No matter what, just keep at it, stay positive and keep in mind that healthy lifestyle! Anything’s possible if you put your mind to it.