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6 things you need to do when starting a new health habit

Lana Bandoim's picture

Are you trying to form new, healthy habits that will improve your life?


Many people wish they had better health and more helpful habits. For some people, this means wanting to lose weight to have more energy and to feel more attractive. For others, this means cutting out sugar or salt to reduce their risk of diabetes or high blood pressure. Whether you want to lose weight, build muscles, eat fewer sweets, or increase your range of motion, you are not alone in dreaming about health goals. However, to achieve these goals and maintain them, you need consistent and healthy habits. Unfortunately, creating the habits can be the hardest part.

The problem with habits

Human beings are programmed to indulge in repeated patterns of behavior. From an evolutionary perspective, the actions people take are generally safe since they encourage continued existence, so repeating them ensures long-term survival. However, problems appear when people develop bad habits such as eating junk food because it is hard to stop. Fortunately, the same sticking power can apply to good habits, and you can develop positive traits.

How to increase your chances of sticking to a habit

If you are trying to develop healthy habits, then you may want to try the following strategies. You want to focus on positive routines that help you create a healthier lifestyle.

1. Create a calendar to mark your progress

You are more likely to stick to your goals when you can see them every day. This is why many people rely on a calendar to help them build a habit and post reminders or motivational snippets to keep them going. The consistency of seeing your purpose every day will help you build a path to success, so you want to modify a calendar you already own or print a custom calendar to help you stick to your goals.

2. Tell a friend

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Telling a friend or several friends about the habit you are trying to form is helpful on several levels. First, telling a friend creates accountability. If you publicize the fact that you are trying to cut out sodas from your diet, you will feel embarrassed if you buy a soda in a friend’s presence or deviate from your stated goal. Second, there is a reminder system that is created. Your friend can ask about your progress and keep you focused on what you said was important to you from the beginning.

3. Create a pattern of behavior

Most habits are reinforced by triggers, or steps that happen before the habit begins. You can use this to break a bad habit or build a new one. For example, are there triggering emotions or events that make you turn to junk food? What triggers can you put into place to help you make healthier decisions at meal times?

4. Form a rigorous plan

Not everyone has the same proclivity for planning, but it is helpful to have a solid, detailed, long-term plan for any habit you form. Are you trying to lose weight? What is the first step you must take, and what are the next steps? A general statement such as planning to eat healthier food is not enough because you need to specify how you will achieve this. Your plan should include things such as where you plan to shop, your grocery lists, meal plans and recipe ideas.

5. Proactively cut back on temptations

One of the biggest detriments to forming a good habit is temptation. Even if you have committed to eating healthier food for lunch every day, it is hard to ignore a group of coworkers who are getting ready to order takeout. You have to proactively remove these temptations from your life. For example, if you refuse to keep junk food in the house, it will never tempt you when you go to the pantry looking for food.

6. Start with small commitments

It is hard to make a big positive change in one leap, so it is important to take advantage of smaller, micro-goals that will help you make progress with smaller commitments. For example, instead of starting a daily workout regimen that requires two hours of intense exercise, you can start with 20 minutes of light exercise a few times a week. Instead of cutting out all the sugar from your diet, you can start by cutting back on the number of dessert items you consume.

These strategies are not foolproof because they still demand commitment and willpower, but if you can follow them, you will have a better chance of forming healthy habits. Once your habits are created and become an integral part of your daily life, they will feel like a normal part of your routine.