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Portable Oxygen Concentrator Resource Center

Mastering the Art of Habit Formation: A Blueprint for Lasting Change For Managing COPD

Posted by Lisa Burkhart on Jan 8, 2024 10:00:00 AM
Lisa Burkhart


create change

As the new year dawns we often begin to think about making changes to improve our lives. Resolutions are sometimes easy to make but harder to stick with as time marches on. Studies show that the majority of resolutions only last an average of 3.74 months. As many as 43% of subjects studied expect to give up their resolutions as early as February. 

In our last blog installment we talked about some beneficial resolutions for respiratory patients aimed at slowing COPD progression, fostering better symptom management, and improving quality of life, especially for those using portable oxygen concentrators.. Today we’ll talk about how to turn resolutions into stable habits that will last throughout the year, and beyond.

Habits are those subtle yet powerful routines woven into the fabric of our daily lives. They have a profound impact on our well-being and success. Whether it's adopting a healthier lifestyle, enhancing productivity, or cultivating mindfulness, forming habits is the gateway to achieving our goals. However, the process of habit formation can be elusive and challenging. 

Year after year, many find themselves entangled in a cycle of setting resolutions only to witness them fizzle out by February. But why do these fervently made promises to ourselves often dwindle into oblivion? First, let's delve into the multifaceted reasons behind the failure of New Year's resolutions.

Most Common Reasons Resolutions Fail


Unrealistic Expectations:

One common pitfall is the establishment of overly ambitious objectives. While aiming high is commendable, setting unrealistic goals can pave the way for disappointment. For instance, vowing to completely overhaul one's lifestyle overnight might not align with the practicality of everyday life, leading to frustration and abandonment of the resolution altogether.

Lack of Specificity and Planning:

Resolutions framed in vague terms like "get fit" or "save more money" lack the specificity necessary for successful execution. Without a well-defined plan and actionable steps, these aspirations often fade into obscurity. Failing to outline the 'how' behind achieving these goals sets them up for failure. If you want to save money. Come up with a realistic amount and then come up with some ideas about how you’ll reach that goal. For example, you may want to put $50 per month into a savings account. The extra $50 may come from giving up 3 meals out a month, not buying sweets at the grocery store for snacks, or canceling some streaming subscriptions.

Absence of Accountability:

Support systems and accountability play pivotal roles in goal attainment. When resolutions are kept private or lack external support, individuals may feel less accountable and more inclined to abandon their objectives at the first hurdle. Sharing goals with friends, joining communities, or seeking guidance from mentors can foster a sense of responsibility and motivation.

All-or-Nothing Mindset:

A common stumbling block is the 'all-or-nothing' mindset that many adopt. Slip-ups or minor setbacks along the way can be demoralizing, leading individuals to abandon their resolutions entirely instead of viewing them as part of the learning curve. If you’ve missed one day of exercising, or you’re a little short on your savings deposit, don’t look at it as a failure, try to figure out what happened and make necessary improvements.

Failure to Adapt:

Life is dynamic, and circumstances change. Yet, many resolutions remain rigid and fail to adapt to evolving situations. Failing to reassess and modify goals to align with shifting priorities or unexpected challenges can lead to eventual abandonment.

Underestimating the Process:

Change is a gradual journey that requires patience, perseverance, and time. Unfortunately, the allure of quick fixes often overshadows the reality of sustained effort and dedication needed to see substantial progress.

So, New Year's resolutions often falter due to a confluence of factors – from unrealistic expectations and lack of planning to inadequate support and an inflexible mindset. However, acknowledging these pitfalls is the first step toward crafting resolutions that stand a better chance of success.

Rather than viewing New Year's resolutions as mere annual rituals, let's shift the focus towards setting realistic, specific, and adaptable goals. Let's embrace the journey, celebrate progress, and foster a mindset that welcomes setbacks as opportunities for growth. After all, the essence lies not just in the resolution itself, but in the commitment and perseverance to bring about lasting change.

Strategies to Make Your Resolutions Last


Understanding the Habit Loop:

At the core of habit formation lies the habit loop, a neurological pattern that governs how habits form. It comprises three key components: cue, routine, and reward. The cue serves as the trigger that initiates the habit, the routine is the behavior itself, and the reward is the gratification or benefit derived from the behavior.

Identify the Cue:

The first step in forming a new habit is pinpointing the cue that triggers it. Whether it's a specific time of day, a particular location, an emotional state, or an action, recognizing the cue is pivotal in consciously initiating the desired behavior. If your goal is to do your breathing exercises more regularly, do them at the same time everyday such as, as soon as you wake up or right after lunch. 

Establish the Routine:

Once the cue is identified, focus on establishing the routine or the behavior you intend to make habitual. Start small and specific. For instance, if the goal is to exercise regularly, begin with a 15-minute workout routine and gradually increase intensity and duration. If the goal is to do active cycle breathing first thing in the morning, do it as soon as you get out of bed. Don’t start doing other things first, as you are more likely to forget or put it off.

Define the Reward:

The reward associated with a habit reinforces its repetition. It could be a sense of accomplishment, a feeling of rejuvenation, or a tangible reward. Understanding and acknowledging the reward strengthens the habit loop, making the behavior more likely to become ingrained. If your lungs begin to feel clearer, take a moment to acknowledge that it’s likely due, at least in part, to your increase in active cycle breathing.

More Specific Strategies for Successful Habit Formation


Start Small and Consistent:

Overcommitment often leads to burnout. Begin with tiny, manageable changes. Consistency is key. Aim to perform the habit daily, as repetition is crucial in cementing behaviors into routines. Huge lifestyle changes all at once are simply not realistic. If your goal is to become more active, start with 15 minutes of active cycle breathing. After that becomes a matter of routine, add on a walk around the block right after lunch. Add on distance as you go. As that becomes a more routine, maybe look for a yoga class to take or find some videos of stretching exercises to learn.

Anchor the Habit:

Anchor the new habit to an existing routine or habit. For instance, if the goal is to drink more water, associate it with an established routine like having water before every meal. Make it convenient. Have a water bottle with you everywhere you go. If you’ve sat down to read, you're less likely to want to get up and walk to the kitchen to get water. Keep it handy and remember to be specific. For instance, make it a goal to drain 4 water bottles per day or one between each meal.

Use Reminders and Cues:

Set up visual or digital reminders to prompt the desired behavior. This could be alarms, sticky notes, or associating the habit with an existing daily trigger. Try to keep the time consistent from day to day. Apps and timers on your cell phone are great reminder tools.

Track Progress and Celebrate Milestones:

Keep track of your habit-building journey. Use journals, habit-tracking apps, or calendars to monitor progress. Celebrate milestones to reinforce the sense of accomplishment and motivation. Celebrate even the tiny steps! Hang up a chart with a visual representation of your progress that you can look at regularly for motivation.

Stay Flexible and Patient:

Be adaptable and forgiving. Slip-ups are normal. Instead of being discouraged, acknowledge them and recommit to the habit. Patience is key; habits take time to solidify. If you miss a day, there is nothing to be gained by beating yourself up over it. Simply move on and vow to do better tomorrow.

Accountability and Support:

We’re social animals and the support of loved ones can do wonders. Share your goals with a friend, join a community, or seek an accountability partner. Having support and being accountable can significantly enhance motivation and commitment. If you have a friend who shares the same goal, to exercise or quit smoking, that’s even better!

Gradual Progression:

As the habit becomes more ingrained, consider gradually increasing its complexity or duration. This prevents stagnation and fosters continuous improvement. If your goal is walking, increase the time and distance at least weekly. If you want to cut down on screen time, replace it with increased amounts of reading, exercising, or doing other hobbies to fill your time.

Making Positive Habits Last for the Long Term:

Sustaining a habit involves integrating it into your lifestyle seamlessly. Once the habit becomes automatic, it requires less conscious effort. However, it's essential to remain vigilant against regression. According to a study reported in the National Library of Medicine, it takes about 10 weeks for consistent effort to make a habit stick. If you can stay steady and consistent through February, you may be affecting positive, lasting changes in your life.

Reflect on the habit periodically. Assess its impact on your life and make adjustments if needed. Moreover, be open to evolving habits as circumstances change. Flexibility is crucial in adapting habits to suit different phases of life. Always keep your “why” in mind and if the habit isn’t furthering that goal, change it.

In conclusion, forming a habit is a journey that demands commitment, patience, and self-awareness. By understanding the habit loop, employing effective strategies, and staying consistent, anyone can master the art of habit formation. Remember, habits shape our lives, and by cultivating positive routines, we pave the way for personal growth, productivity, and overall well-being. Start small, stay consistent, and embrace the transformative power of habits on your journey towards a more fulfilling life.

Topics: COPD, portable oxygen

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