Personal Development

How to create healthy habits: 4 simple steps

The best thing you can do for your brain is to follow a healthy daily routine. Learn how to create new habits today.

If you want to be your best, healthiest, and most empowered self, you must look at your daily routine. Are your daily actions supporting or sabotaging your long-term wellness and vitality? how do you create healthy habits? with the strategies outlined below, you can forge a new habit in four simple steps.

But first, let's dive into why they're important.

Why do habits matter for your health and fitness?

“Our habits will either make us or break us,” says business executive and leadership speaker Sean Covey. “We become what we repeatedly do.” And nowhere is this more true than with your health and fitness.

There are no quick fixes to your health, despite what savvy marketers or social media influencers might promise. It may be tempting to grab those diet pills or detox teas, but the truth is that long-lasting changes require long-lasting healthy habits.

What are the 5 healthy habits?

Healthy habits and daily routines touch on every aspect of your wellness but are especially important in a few key areas. A US study found that these 5 habits are the most important, and can even add more than a decade to your life.

1. Diet habits

Low carb? Low fat? Intermittent fasting? Paleo? Keto? Mediterranean? Many people obsess over picking the right diet, and the options are endless.

The most important thing is to focus on a varied diet of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and vitamins and minerals that support your brain health.

2. Main a healthy weight

Research shows that almost all diets can help you maintain a healthy weight. What actually matters—regardless of the food you eat—is your long-term adherence.

In other words, habit.

This long-term behaviour, or lack thereof, is why so many people might be successful in the first few months of a healthy eating plan, but quickly revert back when they fall off the proverbial wagon.

3. Exercise habits

Short-term exercise can provide immediate benefits, like a boost in mood and a reduction in tension.

But long-term exercise habits are linked with numerous health benefits, including a reduced risk of illness, a lower risk of heart issues and improved brain health .

4. Not smoking

The last two on the list are more about breaking bad habits than they are about forming a new ones. It can be hard to quit smoking but has been found time and time again to radically improve your health and fitness. Ditching cigarettes can help you with other healthy habits too, for example you might find it improves your stamina for exercise.

5. Not drinking too much alcohol

Cutting down on your alcohol intake can help you improve your diet, and maintain a healthy weight. Not to mention, without a hangover you'll be much more likely to commit to your morning jog or gym sesh.

How to create healthy habits (and stick with them!)

How do you create a habit? Put simply, you do something every day. The World Health Organization reports that permanent, long-term changes to your behaviour—such as taking supplements , changing your lifestyle, or eating a healthy diet—are one of the most important things for your overall health.

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” explains a study published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine . “This popular expression indicates that apples are good for one’s health. [...] However, perhaps the more important takeaway message is to eat nutritious foods regularly.

The term lifestyle change inherently means that changes are made such that they can be followed for the lifetime of an individual. Implementation of a lifestyle change implies that a routine is followed and habits are formed. A healthy lifestyle includes habitual consumption of nutritious foods, regular physical activity, and consistent sleep.”

For a life of vibrancy and vitality, it’s less about what you do right now, or as a one-off. It’s more about the things you do daily.

How to build habits: 4 simple steps

Step 1. Pick a habit you’d like to try

Before thinking about how to create healthy habits, consider what new habit you want to embody. Whatever it is, start small.

Multiple studies have found that when it comes to your health, people are far more successful turning small changes into habits. Picking something that’s too big, or which represents too dramatic of a shift in your life, can quickly overwhelm you and cause you to give up (e.g., “I will never eat meat again” versus “I’ll eat plant-based every Monday”).

Some small habits to consider trying include:

  • Getting 30 more minutes of sleep a night

  • Taking your supplements every morning

  • Adding 30 minutes of physical activity to your day

  • Eating five servings of fruits and vegetables a day

Step 2. Attach your new habit to something you’re already doing daily

Find a trigger in your daily life that helps to initiate the new action you want to turn into a habit.

“Attach a new habit or behaviour to something you already do regularly,” suggests psychologist Ilene Berns-Zare PsyD . “One strategy, called habit stacking, connects a new habit with a long-established habit. For example: if you want to begin walking daily, plan to take your walk right after lunch.”

Other examples of habit stacking include:

  • Taking your supplements every morning with breakfast

  • Doing a mental exercise for brain health whenever you’re waiting for your morning coffee to brew

  • Adding one new healthy vegetable to each meal

  • Doing 10 squats or push-ups whenever there’s a commercial playing on your favourite TV show

  • Practising a few minutes of mindfulness every evening after you’ve brushed your teeth

Step 3. Make it as effortless as possible

Think about all the past times you’ve failed to turn a new activity into a habit.

Consider all the potential pitfalls that stand between you and your new health goals. Then, plan ahead, get proactive, and:

  • Make it as easy as possible to accomplish your new activity

  • Remove temptations or potential roadblocks (psychological or physical) that stand in the way of you and your new habit

For example, you could place your supplements on the kitchen counter so they’re visible and easy to grab during the busyness of the morning.

Or, pre-pack your gym bag. Place it in your car the night before so that you can’t use the excuse of “forgetting” your gym gear.

Step 4. Reward yourself

Now you know how to create healthy habits, you need to make it rewarding. There are two ways to do this:

  • Intrinsic motivation: Remind yourself of your deeper “why.” Maybe you want to get stronger to boost your self-esteem. Or perhaps you want more energy so you can keep up with your grandkids. Focus on how rewarding life will be for you if you stick with this new habit.

  • External motivation: Consider ways to give yourself a small, healthy reward for your perseverance. Perhaps it’s a nice meal at the end of the week if you’ve hit your gym attendance goals. Maybe it’s a fancy bottle of sparkling water every night instead of the sugary drinks you’re trying to eliminate.

“While intrinsic motivation—the internal force pushing us to engage in a behaviour—is ultimately invaluable, incentives or rewards may help with habit-building by getting a person to begin to engage in the hoped-for behaviour (such as working out) in the first place,” explains Psychology Today magazine.

What are 10 healthy habits?

In our guide to creating healthy habits, a couple of examples have cropped up. To summarise, here are 10 we've recommended:

  1. Taking your supplements every morning

  2. Doing a mental exercise for brain health

  3. Adding one new healthy vegetable to each meal

  4. Doing 10 squats or push-ups whenever there’s a commercial playing

  5. Practising a few minutes of mindfulness every evening

  6. Getting 30 more minutes of sleep a night

  7. Taking your supplements every morning

  8. Adding 30 minutes of physical activity to your day

  9. Eating five servings of fruits and vegetables a day

  10. Pre-pack your gym bag the night before


Know your own mind?

The average brain health score is 51/100. Take our 3-minute quiz to learn how yours measures up and how to boost it.

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