Treating your body as well as you possibly can takes dedication, perseverance, and (you guessed it!) a whole bunch of healthy habits. This isn’t something you can establish overnight unless you have an iron will. For the rest of us, implementing healthy habits and sticking to them is an ongoing process.
How to Form Healthy Habits
Creating healthy changes in your life means that little decisions and actions need to become ingrained in your routine. You’ve heard of the term lifestyle change, right? Crafting a routine filled with healthy habits is the exact same thing. Having healthy habits changes how you think so eventually, instead of telling yourself to eat veggies with every meal, you just do it! No decision necessary. We like to make little changes, one by one, that grow together to represent holistic change. This theory of change makes a lifestyle overhaul easier since it affords you stepping stones between your starting point and your health goals. If the healthy habit you want to establish is to work out everyday and you aren’t used to doing so, you may push yourself too hard and abandon ship if the habit seems too exhausting to maintain long term. But working in a few push ups a day as opposed to a full-on workout is much easier. See what we mean? Focus on stacking up bite-sized healthy habits in order to build up and enjoy the benefits of overall lifestyle changes.
To form a habit, the activity you’re trying to incorporate into your life needs to become second nature. To get there, we suggest following the three Rs of habit formation. This strategy was recently popularized by James Clear but has been popping up (more or less eloquently) since at least 2010. The three Rs are:
When deciding on the habit you want to establish, it’s helpful to put it in context. If you’re aiming to eat a piece of fresh fruit every day, you’re more likely to follow through if you tie the activity to a consistent cue from your day-to-day life. For example, eat a piece of fruit every day with lunch. When you’re packing your lunch, you’ll automatically put a piece of fruit in, and you can adjust your portions to make sure the fruit—rather than an extra handful of chips or a cookie—gets eaten every day.
This means consistently engaging in the activity you want to become a habit. You can pack an apple in your lunch all you want, but if you don’t eat it you haven’t made it part of your routine.
Practicing self-affirmation—that is, praising yourself for a job well done or identifying how your habits align with your core values—after engaging in your healthy habit can help you stick to it. It may also be the most gratifying part of incorporating your habit into your day-to-day life. You may have heard (or read somewhere on the internet) that it takes 30 days to form a good habit. This would be great, really, but studies show that it takes closer to 10 weeks or two and a half months for an action to become a genuinely habitual part of your routine. To keep you on track with your healthy changes for the full 10 weeks, accountability is key! This can achieved in a variety of ways—from checking in with friends or on social media to starting a fitness journal. And don’t worry too much if you veer away from your new habit momentarily. Studies found that getting off track (thanks to a weekend-long Netflix binge, a vacation, whatever) did not seriously impact habit formation so long as you jump right back in. Don’t beat yourself up about a setback, just keep on trucking and you’ll eventually be golden.
Healthy Habits You Can Aim for This Year
Although everyone is in a different spot when it comes to their wellness and lifestyle goals, we can all make positive changes. Even if they are little, these changes can have a positive impact on your health. Here are our top ideas for healthy habits to implement this year
- Focus on a healthy, well-rounded diet. You can start with an apple a day and work your way up to cleaner, more conscientious eating.
- For the couch potatoes among us: Incorporate regular workouts. Start with making your day more active and work your way into to a full-blown fitness routine.
- Get enough sleep (because lack of sleep is all-around bad for you).
- Drink enough water.
- Start a meditation practice.
- Get enough quality social time in to prevent loneliness.
Apps to Get You There
Healthy changes need to become healthy habits in order to have the long-lasting wellness impacts you’re after. But until a healthy activity has become an automatic part of your day, one of the most helpful ways of keeping on track and moving toward habit formation is with proactive reminders and intentional scheduling. We highly recommend setting reminders on your phone or calendar (for example, “6:30: 7-minute Meditation”). This works for everything from setting a healthy bedtime to a reminding yourself to eat your salad at lunch. If you’re using online meditation or fitness resources, copy–paste the URL into your calendar description so you can access the resource easily when your calendar reminder pops up! Those of us with somewhat sedentary lifestyles and office jobs can also use fitness trackers like the Fitbit that will remind us to get up and move our bodies every hour. Whatever your healthy change may be, we know that taking the time to make it a habit will make your life so much easier. When healthy choices become second nature, your well-being can only benefit.