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TWC #008: How do I successfully implement new habits during the menopause?

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How do I successfully implement new habits during the menopause?

Who doesn’t know them?

The New Year’s resolutions that recur every year. We usually start in December by thinking about what we want to change or start in the new year. For example, to exercise more, eat less, sleep more or simply lead a healthier lifestyle. Have you ever noticed that gyms and swimming pools are often overcrowded after Christmas? 

In the new year, we usually start well with a new resolution and stick to it for the first few days, if not weeks. And then suddenly all good intentions are lost.

Hand on heart, how often have you experienced this?

In behavioural science, we call this a «knowing-doing gap«. We are aware that we should eat less sweets, do more sport and exercise more, but something prevents us from doing so. 

How can we still do it? 

B.J. Fogg from Standford University has developed a method over many years of research, which he has successfully tested himself time and again. He calls it «Tiny Habits«. His method teaches you the joy of small successes. If you start by implementing simple, minimal parts of desired goals, this leads to higher motivation and it is much easier to establish new habits in the brain as a new structure. Because that’s where it has to go to really work. 

If one of our goals (e.g. jogging regularly) doesn’t work, the first and most important step is to understand that it’s not us. What often happens when we don’t achieve our goal?  We feel upset and blame ourselves. However, this is wrong. We are simply using the wrong process. It has nothing to do with us as a person. 

With his work, B.J. Fogg has redefined behaviour. His research shows that a certain behaviour can occur when motivation (your desire to do something), ability (your ability to act) and a prompt (a signal to begin) occur simultaneously. Let’s try to look at this in more detail.

Ability and motivation are related. The higher the motivation, the more likely it is that you will adopt a new behaviour. And the easier the behaviour is, the less motivation you need. The model also shows that motivation is the most uncertain component. Unfortunately, we rely on it. The motivation to go jogging is high, but as soon as it rains or is cold, it falls away.

Based on these findings, Fogg developed the ABC method (Anchor, Behaviour, Celebration). First, we need to find an anchor point to establish our new habit. The best way to do this is to take an already established habit and link the new habit to it. For example, I go to the kitchen every morning to make myself a coffee or brush my teeth every evening. The new action must be carried out immediately afterwards. And it should be as small as possible at the beginning. The last point is rejoicing. It is very important to celebrate what you have achieved immediately afterwards. This may seem unusual at first, but it is a crucial component because positive feelings reinforce behaviour. It is the feelings, not the repetition, that establish a new behaviour. 

It doesn’t take much to celebrate. A quiet «high five!» or a loud «yay» works just as well as dancing around the kitchen, hugging someone or whatever you can think of. The main thing is that it suits you.

How do we get from the small goals to the bigger ones? The tiny new habits spread by multiplication. When new, small habits are incorporated into our behaviour, new, related small habits are also created. Success gives us more self-confidence and a positive feeling makes us more motivated to continue. A positive cycle is created. 

If this all sounds a bit complicated, here are a few examples that we have successfully tested. We hope they will motivate you to try out the model for yourself. 

1. drink enough

More than half of our body consists of water. Water is found in all body fluids such as saliva, gastric juice, lymph and blood. Water is also required for thermoregulation. Among other things, water is also necessary for the transport of nutrients and metabolic end products, as well as for all chemical reactions in the body. If we don’t drink enough, this can have a negative impact on some of the symptoms of menopause. 

My new behavioural recipe: As soon as I enter my kitchen in the morning (anchor), I pour myself a large glass of water and add the juice of half a lemon (new behaviour). Once I’ve drunk it, I’m happy about how good it feels and say a quiet bravo to myself (celebration). 

In the meantime, the water behaviour works not only in the morning, but also during the day. The desire for more water has led to me always having a full bottle with me. 

2. regular push-ups

As we get older, our muscle mass decreases. About three per cent is lost every decade. Unfortunately, it happens even faster after the menopause. Women lose as much as 30 per cent of their muscle mass between the ages of 50 and 70. For this reason, it is important to do regular strength training. 

My new behavioural recipe: Every time I go to the toilet (anchor), I do five push-ups (new behaviour) and then a «high five» in the bathroom mirror (celebration).

You can do the push-ups against the wall at the beginning to start even smaller. Thanks to the increased strength that has built up in your upper body, working with dumbbells is now also fun.

3. small breaks

Chronic stress is never good. But we need it even less during the menopause. That’s why short breaks are important to re-energise. 

My new behavioural recipe: As soon as my meeting is finished (anchor), I stand up and do a short breathing exercise (new behaviour). Then I congratulate myself (celebration). 

The short breaks show that I can work more efficiently again afterwards and make me want to take longer breaks (e.g. a walk).

4. gratitude

According to studies, grateful people enjoy life more. People who are aware every day of what they are grateful for in their lives have fewer physical complaints, need to go to the doctor less often, cope better with stress, are more optimistic and enjoy life more. Gratitude helps us to understand what is important in life and what makes us happy.

My new behavioural recipe: As soon as my head touches the pillow in the evening (anchor), I think about two things that I am grateful for at that moment (new behaviour). Then I give myself a quick hug (celebration). 

Perhaps this new habit will lead you to start a gratitude diary. Try it out!

Of course, you have to find your own recipes. Otherwise it won’t work. And just pick a goal at first and test out the process. Too many habit changes at once won’t work. 

Get in touch if you want to know more.

Good luck! 

Katharina, Joëlle & Adrian

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