How to form healthy habits that stick
Have you ever told yourself you’d make a change for good, but given up a few days later? We’ve all been there. But remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
If, like many, you’re looking at the rest of the year as a post-lockdown fresh start, you might be thinking about adopting some healthy new habits. Maybe you’re trying to eat healthier, stop smoking or read more often – whatever it is, making a change can take time, so it’s important to give it some real thought. Read on for inspiration and ways you can make your new habits more sustainable…
Tried and tested healthy habits
Want to feel a little happier and not sure what might help? There are so many recommended habits and daily activities that can improve your health:
- Eating a healthy diet, rich in fruit, vegetables and whole grains and low in sugar and saturated fats
- Doing 30 minutes of exercise a day
- Cutting out alcohol or sticking to your recommended units per week
- Learning something new, like a language, craft or way of cooking
- Getting fresh air or stepping into nature each day
- Meditating regularly
4 tips to keep sustainable healthy habits
1. Scale down and make a plan
‘Take whatever habit you’re trying to build and scale it down to a smaller thing you can do within a few minutes,’ advises James Clear, author of the best-selling book Atomic Habits. Map out what it might look like to achieve your goals and plan small, reasonable actions to get there.
For example, if you wanted to read 30 books a year, your plan could be to read a few pages a day. You could also make a habit of putting a book on your pillow each morning to prompt you to read those few pages before bed that evening.
2. Be realistic
It’s easy to set big goals when you want a big change. But it’s much harder to get there, and to feel good about yourself in the process. Set yourself a target you know is achievable – don’t forget, you can always take it further later.
If you want to eat less carbohydrates but you’re used to having them for lunch and dinner, cutting them out completely might be unrealistic. But if you make a habit to have carbs at lunch and something lighter for dinner, you can celebrate your achievement of cutting down.
3. Be kind to yourself
Sometimes when we try to adopt new habits, other things in life – like health issues or a big workload – can get in the way. If you are struggling to keep a new habit, ask yourself what else might be going on in your life, and try not to beat yourself up about it. Things might not go as planned, and that’s ok.
But if you’re really struggling with new behaviours and you think mental health issues could be getting in the way, speak to someone to address any underlying issues – the Livi app may be a great place to start. Talking to someone could help you move on and succeed.
4. Be patient
How long does it take to form a habit? Some people say it takes three weeks, some studies say 66 days, but the waiting game can make it harder to keep your consistency – and of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to developing new behaviours.
Our advice? Think of your new habit as a sustainable lifestyle change, rather than a temporary change with an ultimate end goal. According to James Clear, “habits are not a finish line to be crossed, they’re a lifestyle to be lived.”
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