A Quick Guide to Healthier Habits

Jan 24, 2024

Having habits and routines are essential aspects of everyday life.  Habits are the small changes that can add up to significant results over time.  Habits can play an active role in multiple aspects of life – mental and physical health, productivity, relationships, self-esteem, etc. In fact, studies have found that successful people tend to have more of the kinds of habits that contribute to their success.  The good news, for those who wish to be successful, cultivating positive habits takes no more effort than developing bad ones. 

Good habits bring about change one step at a time, help ensure that these changes become part of life, and can help make our life easier.  An example of this, studies show that staying organized can help prevent stress and chaos in our lives. 

It has also been found that you’re far more likely to reach a goal if you make new habits part of your consistent daily choices. These goals can include:

  • A more regimented daily routine
  • Disciplined food choices
  • Regulated sleep schedules
  • How much exercise you get

Ways to help new habits stick:

  1. Stack Habits – attach a new one to a current.  Build upon something you already do to add something else you want to do.  You eat breakfast every day and want to start taking morning walks.  Make it a point to walk right after each breakfast (Habit Stack). After time you will go for a walk after breakfast without having to think about it. 
  2. Start Small – the thought of a big, life-changing habit can be overwhelming and take a lot of willpower but doing tiny things (consistently) each day in this direction is doable and can eventually have the same big impact.  This can be less daunting and easier to see progress.
  3. Be Specific – Don’t set an abstract goal like “I want to walk each day.”  Rather, set something like “I will walk 10 minutes per day” or “I will park in the furthest parking spot at work each day to help get my daily 10,000 steps in.”
  4. Track Your Progress – track (and celebrate) milestones (no matter how small).  For example, grab a calendar and mark each day you do your habit; use an app to take notes on a habit; start a habit journal; etc. Tracking can help you visualize your progress and identify any recurrent setbacks.
  5. Reward Yourself – Don’t forget to celebrate!  Find fun things to do for milestones – give yourself a little fist pump when you do your new habit; reward yourself by inviting friends to join you the next time you do your habit (sharing it with others takes it up to a whole new level).  Give yourself a “smile and good job.”  I.E.) You want to floss every day?  Right after you floss one tooth, look in the mirror and smile and tell yourself “Good job, me!” Celebrating achievements can boost confidence and increase motivation.
  6. Find a Bigger Purpose – you will often hear people talk about their “why.” Find your “why” – your greater purpose for wanting the new habit.  I.E.) Do more activities with friends to stay connected with them.  Have meals with family members to enjoy more time with them. Do yoga now to be more limber as you age. A purpose can help dictate your sense of direction, influence your behavior, and create meaning.  

Although there is debate on the length of time it takes to truly make something a habit (some say 21 Days, some studies suggest 60 days), Harvard Business Review reports that repetition is key to making a new habit stick.  Keep at it!  What you spend your time and energy on each day will define the life you create. Put that time and energy into what you deserve. Pointedly, if not, it’s simply a waste of time. You always have time for what you want. Choose wisely.

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