During the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, most gyms were shut down and people were advised to stay at home. Like most people, I had to work out from home. This drastically changed my routine and habits. Because I spent all day at home, I didn’t bother changing into my gym clothes like I normally would. Later, I noticed I felt tired very easily. I didn’t feel motivated to exercise or do anything at all. Usually, I would spend an hour at the gym. At home, it was challenging to even get through a quick ten-minute workout.
Days went by without my motivation coming back. I completely stopped exercising. I realised I needed to do something about it. I started with just one small change: right after I woke up, I changed into workwear or activewear. I immediately noticed that when I dressed for work, I was more focused on my job. When I dressed for the gym, I felt more energetic and was motivated enough to do a quick fifteen-minute workout. Over time, I was able to slowly increase this to get back into my workout routine.
This works, but not for the reason you think it does. The outfit makes you look different, but you’re still the same person. You can go about your whole routine in loungewear without a problem. The difference is that when you dress for an activity, that triggers your brain to go into the routine it associates with that outfit. When you put on activewear, your brain thinks “Okay, it’s time to exercise!” Your ten minutes of squats won’t be any easier when you’re wearing yoga pants, but it does help you trick your mind into getting ready to exercise.
The same principle applies to your work clothes. Putting on a button-down shirt and blazer doesn’t make you any smarter, but it does help you get into work mode. This is helpful for getting yourself to do routine tasks; your brain goes into autopilot. When you’re on autopilot, it’s easier for your brain to simply stick to a routine and distractions fade away. That’s why I always forget things that are outside my routine!
If starting your exercise routine is hard for you, try telling yourself out loud, “when I wake up tomorrow morning, I’ll change into my activewear and do two minutes of star jumps, two minutes of squats, two minutes of sit-ups, and I’ll do that all twice.”
Bad habits repeat themselves not because we don’t want to change, but because we haven’t found the right system that enable us to do it. So if you out there want to be more active, want to go to sleep earlier, want to lose weight, or whatever your goal is, try telling yourself how to go about that goal in detail. Do it slowly, step by step, to build a sustainable, long-term strategy. For instance, “tomorrow morning, I’ll wake up at 7am and go to the park for a twenty-minute run. Then I’ll buy chicken salad from the café for lunch.”
I hope this tip will help and will become your first step toward something that you are trying to work on, whether it’s weight loss, healthy eating, consistent workouts, or a healthy sleep routine!