How to form healthy habits and stick to them

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Old habits die hard. But maintaining healthy habits is not an impossible task. Plucking up the courage to stop smoking, or committing to going to the gym a few times a week, is already a huge first step. The key is to take up these good habits and sustain them, so that they will (hopefully) last you a lifetime.

Here are a few tips that will help you form healthy habits and stick to them.

Understand how habits work

Before you try and change your habits, it’s important to understand the basics of how they work. To enforce a healthy habit, American journalist and author Charles Duhigg believes that you need to positively turn around these 3 aspects of any habit:

  1. The cue – the trigger which reminds you to perform a particular habit
  2. The routine – the action you perform automatically without really thinking about it, meaning the habit itself
  3. The reward – the payoff you feel from performing your habit

So if, for instance, you want to start making it a habit to go to the gym every morning, this is how you should tackle these 3 aspects:

  1. Prepare your gym bag and clothes the night before, and place them near your front door
  2. Repeat your gym workouts enough times, so that they become ingrained in your daily behaviour
  3. Reward your trip to the gym with something small, which will rewire your brain to feel better about repeating the good habit

Maintain a pattern

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Variety usually keeps things interesting. But too much variety can make it harder to stick to a healthy habit. Instead of making the extra effort to diversify your actions, pick a particular cue, routine and reward. Stick with that set of three until your healthy habit is absolutely ingrained within your daily activities.

Give yourself a pep talk

Constantly encouraging yourself to perform a healthy habit will improve your chances of building and retaining it. Whenever staying healthy becomes a strain, try performing positive mental rehearsals. This means envisioning yourself acting out a good habit instead of a bad one. This will help the area of your brain which controls your habits to gradually grow stronger and more resistant to the temptation of giving up.

Don’t underestimate the undertow

Undertow is that unconscious force which may hinder you from prioritising healthy habits. Undertow can be very self-destructive and ultimately leave you powerless. To stop undertow from taking over, you need to accept it as a natural part of building better habits. The most important thing is to always be mindful of your actions and of what you can improve about yourself.

Use helpful technology

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Technology is making many things a lot easier to deal with nowadays, and managing healthy habits is no exception. A number of apps have been specifically designed to help you get used to healthy habits. One must-have app is HabitBull. It reminds you to do all your tasks, helping you create a habit streak you won’t want to break. Way of Life is another effective habit-building app, which can track your habits in colour-coded, daily charts.

Take your time

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Don’t set sky-high expectations for yourself, thinking that you can completely change your habits in a couple of days or weeks. According to research by University College London, it takes around 66 days to form a habit, good or bad. That’s more than 2 months. Take your time to get used to your new and improved lifestyle and don’t simply quit if you experience a few bumps along the way.

 

Replacing smoking, drinking or unhealthy eating with going to the gym regularly has been life changing for many people. But without someone guiding you through it, this can be quite challenging.

Speak to one of the 43 Health & Fitness Instructors listed on Yellow about breaking your bad habits and swapping them for healthier ones.

Stay healthy, and stay informed with yellow.com.mt!

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