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Healthy habits in 2021: Start with the basics

A local psychologist gives advice on how to lock in healthy habits and overcome the barriers holding you back

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota — Week one of 2021 has come and gone, but has your resolution fled as well?

Since it's never too late for a fresh start, we turned to Dr. Stephanie Pituc, a licensed psychologist at North Memorial Health, for advice on how to overcome the barriers keeping us from success.

Dr. Pituc says you should begin by acknowledging the conditions you're working with, specifically changes caused by the pandemic.

"If you're working from home, you don't have the usual routines. You may have different expectations at work as far as deadlines and work flow," said Dr. Pituc.

So, her advice is to start small. "I'm a big proponent of keeping it simple and getting back to basics. Like really simple as far as your basic needs: like water, nutrition, fresh air, movement of your body and then safety and security," explained Dr. Pituc.

Basic needs that we often overlook, can actually serve your bigger goals like losing weight, being more active and getting closer to family.

"Forming anything that has a sort of structure to it is going to serve you in this time. Having simple habits, even just as simple as waking up at the same time every day. It seems really small, but it’s actually one that is really going to serve you during this pandemic time when there is so much out of our control," said Dr. Pituc.

She further explained, "A lot of what we know about research on habits and behavior change, is that small and specific goals are actually more likely to be achieved and accomplished."

Dr. Pituc also advises focusing on the "why" of your big goal. 

Why do you want to lose weight? Why do I want to run this race? Why do I want to save this much money? 

That "why" will help you with the "how." 

Dr. Pituc referenced a 2019 research study that looked at superordinate goals, the highest level of goal hierarchy, and smaller goals that are concrete.

"People who had really fleshed out and gotten clear on both the big goal and the why, and the smaller goals that connect to that. Those people actually put more effort into their goals and had more commitment to them," said Dr. Pituc.

So in 2021, when there is so much of the unknown, there are certain things that we do know that we need. And that, Dr. Pituc says, is often the basics.

"We often want to control the future or make this change in the future, but our best chance and best probability of affecting the future is by the actions we take today, in the present moment," Dr. Pituc concluded.

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