Simple, Practical Tips for Making Healthy Habits Stick
Updated: Oct 6, 2022
Have you ever tried to implement a new healthy habit and it didn’t stick? Perhaps you were able to stick to a healthy habit for 5, 10 or even 20 days and then it fell to the wayside. It’s not uncommon for this to happen. In fact, it’s the norm. It doesn’t mean you lack discipline or motivation, but if you’re banking on motivation alone to keep you on track for your habits to become a part of your routine, you’re going to fail each and every time. Motivation is fleeting. It’s short-term. It can certainly be helpful for launching a new habit, it holds no weight in the long run. In order for a habit to become second nature, you need to incorporate a few tactics that, over time will help your healthy habit remain in your life for good. Implementing a healthy habit can be done more easily than you think, without any stress- if you know how to do it.
One of the thought leaders on habit formation is James Clear. He wrote a phenomenal book called, ‘Atomic Habits’ which is an action-based, integrative work-book-like plan to help you improve the way you bring habits into your life. Take your time with this book. It’s not a quick, easy read. It’s designed to take you through the process of building new, good, healthy habits and removing old, unhealthy habits.
Let’s turn to Clear’s definition of a habit before going further. Clear states, “Habits are the small decisions you make and actions you perform every day. According to researchers at Duke University, habits account for about 40 percent of our behaviors on any given day.”
This means that many of the small actions we take (or don’t take) are a result of the choices that we have decided are either important or unimportant to us.
When implementing a new healthy habit it may be helpful to ask yourself these questions:
What habit do I want to form/abandon?
Why is it important to me to form/abandon this habit?
How can I do this by taking the path of least resistance?
How will my life improve my forming/abandoning this habit?
The next step is to focus on one tiny habit at a time. The intention is to avoid making a new healthy habit complicated, because complication results in stress, which leads to burnout and thus, failure. It’s about quick wins! Ways that you can re-wire your brain by breaking old unhealthy habits and replacing them with new, healthy habits. The more wins you have, the more your brain says, “oooh that felt good, let’s do more of that!” So, set yourself up for success by picking one small healthy habit at a time. You can continue adding and building more healthy habits once you have established a solid routine with the first.
Once you have identified the tiny habit you want to implement, here are some easy, stress-free ways to make it stick.
Write It Out with "I am" Statements
Let’s say you decide to drink more water each day and want to make this your new healthy habit. Maybe, based on the questions above, you’ve concluded that:
I am drinking more water every day
It is important that I drink more water every day because I am suffering from symptoms of dehydration (add your symptoms; headaches, dry skin, joint discomfort, constipation)
In order to drink more water every day I am choosing water before other beverages like coffee, juice or pop. I am leaving a cup of water out beside the coffee maker to remind me to drink first thing in the morning. I am traveling with my water bottle. I am putting water glasses beside my bed, toothbrush, keys etc., to remind me to drink water.
When I drink more water, I am more energetic which means I play with my children more. I am headache-free which allows me to stop taking Advil. I am more confident in my skin as it improves which makes me want to be more social, smile more and apply less makeup.
You may even want to put these statements somewhere you can see them daily.
The Art of Pairing
Continuing with the healthy habit of drinking more water, another helpful tactic is to pair your new habit with an activity that is already well established. This is akin to a mental prompt, in which you do one routine-based task and use that as a reminder to add the new habit on to it.
If you already have a habit of drinking coffee in the morning, use the art of pairing and conjoin drinking water with drinking coffee. Begin to associate coffee drinking as the thing you do that follows water drinking.
Make It Obvious
If you want your habit to stick, make it easy to succeed. To do this, put your water glasses or water bottles out in the open, in places where you are most likely to see them, reach for them and build your habit by drinking! If you’re placing a large glass of water right in front of the coffee maker, this is an obvious reminder that you need to drink water before you drink coffee. If you put a glass of water bottle beside your toothbrush in the evening, this is a great reminder to drink water before you brush your teeth. If you have a water bottle beside you in the car on your drive to work or to the grocery store, it’s an obvious, visible reminder to drink up.
As the positive reinforcements from your habit become evident; such as drinking water (like a reduction in headaches, more energy etc) your mind will start to subconsciously desire the water as your brain starts communicating, “I feel good when I do this, let’s do it more!” This is a telltale sign that you have established a healthy habit and it has become more routine based and less intentional. From here, you are ready to add additional healthy habits. But don’t rush the process. Make sure your first healthy habit is rock solid before you start thinking about the next.
In vibrant health,