How to Develop Healthier Habits
Choosing to live with healthy habits can easily make life better and longer.
Who hasn’t tried to eat better, exercise regularly or sleep longer? At one point, people decide to create a list of healthy habits and give up those that are not for the sake of their mental health and wellbeing.
But, what is a habit? A habit is a routine that you repeat whether you are aware of it or not. Some practices are good; some are the opposite. Once you recognize that you have tendencies and urges that negatively affect your health, that’s when you embark on an objective, lasting change and rethink your routine.
Some people are okay with what the world offers, while some continuously make excuses when they fail to achieve the results they want. But why should you settle for complacency when you have the power to enhance the quality of your life by establishing healthy habits?
Cognitive Health and Wellness Institute is on a mission to help people enjoy better food and quality of life. In this blog, we list down some of the healthy habits you should incorporate into your routine to attain the goals you have envisioned for yourself.
How to start healthy habits
It boils down to just getting started, right? But we all know that, sometimes, it’s not easy. Or is it? You can make better choices now with the end goal in mind: to feel better, grow more robust, and live longer.
Now, with that north star, you can jumpstart your journey with healthy habits for your overall health and wellness. Identify your weak spots and consider the support system you might need. You will need this compass when you are actually within the method you have developed for yourself initially.
Have a growth mindset from the start so that you don’t stress yourself too much. This point means you won’t have to be too hard on yourself when challenges come because they do. Instead, welcome them headstrong and keep going. You can even use challenges as stepping stones to further improve yourself.
Start writing down your current habits so you can compare what boxes you’ve ticked and evaluate yourself in stages. Know and accept what needs to be changed, what else you need to do, and what you can ultimately let go of. Being aware of where you’re at will significantly help you see how much you can still positively change.
How to develop healthier habits
Failing to plan is planning to fail.
Who has not heard of this famous quote by Benjamin Franklin? It may sound cliche by now, but this mindset will never run out of style. Planning is necessary to succeed in whatever you need to do or change, and this stays true in developing healthier habits in life.
Whenever you want anything turned into a habit, you need repetition for it to happen. Regularly doing something over time will establish a good foundation of stepwise progress you want to see in your life, and it will become automatic to you.
For example, if your goal is to be alert and productive, set a schedule for sleeping and waking up. Regular sleep times are crucial to maintaining a solid 7-8 hours of sleep every day. Plan your week so you can start your day at 7 am and make sure you’re in bed at 10 pm, for instance. No extra Netflix shows at night. No snooze buttons in the morning. No more, no less.
Having an organized schedule always wins. You can even incorporate workouts within the day to have mental breaks and still take care of your physical health. A good tip for developing healthy habits? Create routines that will eventually become so natural to you; it’s like you can do them without thinking.
Routines turn into habits
Nir Eyal, author of the book Indistractable said that “if you value your time, focus, or relationships, you will need to form new patterns of behavior.” A routine is a series of frequent behaviors intentionally repeated, so they stick.
Routines can be uncomfortable because you need to put effort into doing them consciously. You can have to-do lists to interject certain behaviors to where you want to turn into habits.
Say you want never to forget to hydrate and drink at least 7-8 glasses a day. Add “water breaks” or set the alarm for when you remember to drink at certain times of the day. Over time, with discipline and commitment, you’ll be looking for your water tumbler like it’s the back of your hand.
Consistency is key
Some people say it’s good to commit to a new habit for a few days first. (A good benchmark is 30 days). Once you get past that, you’ll find yourself consistently making such habits. During the first 30 days, you need to get into the habit every single day, as much as you possibly can. It is crucial.
For instance, if you want to exercise regularly, get that yoga mat daily and without fail. It’s not a workout routine if you don’t stick to it consistently (see what we did there?). If you plan to do only 3-4 days of exercise, stick to the same days. Do not miss a single day because it can be challenging to bounce back.
Keep things simple
Do not overcomplicate your plan. Remember: it takes repetition for the habit to kick in. You can’t change a harmful habit overnight. It’s tempting to get overly excited in the first few days and to do too much. But, the real test is in the days, weeks, and months following that. Sustainability keeps you on track with the change that you want to make.
Build on the simple steps first, gradually increasing repetitions each day or adding hours where possible. If you’re developing healthy habits in your food, you can add progressively new vegetables or fruits to your plate, for instance. The adjustment doesn’t have to be drastic but realistic.
It’s better to see little progress over time than a sudden change in a short time. There are no shortcuts, for they are bound to fail. Often, the latter produces abrupt changes that even your own body can’t tolerate. That could be destructive to you mentally and physically rather than beneficial in the long run.
Find an accountability partner
Someone close to you is an ideal buddy to help keep you in check. This person should be a reliable and trustworthy ally who will support you without judging you, especially when struggling. The last thing you’d want is to be around people who mock your journey to change.
It would help if you had someone to motivate and encourage you to keep going when times are tough. Also, an accountability partner is someone who will cheer you on to celebrate your small wins. It’s an excellent boost to your morale to know someone sees your victories – big or small.
Whether you choose a relative or a friend, your accountability buddy should know your triggers, too. That way, you wouldn’t feel alone or helpless when laziness kicks in. You can tell them to call you at certain times of the day to check on you, for example. Doing this can help you get back on track when you don’t feel like failing on the habit you want to develop.
Healthy habits to do every day
Did you know there is a science to how healthy habits can work? According to James Clear, author of the book Atomic Habits, there are four (4) stages of habit.
Clear said this is the backbone of every habit. Your brain usually runs through this four-step pattern in the same order, almost without fail. He suggests the following questions, which you can use as a guide when you want to change a specific behavior:
- How can I make it obvious? (Cue)
- How can I make it attractive? (Craving)
- How can I make it easy? (Response)
- How can I make it satisfying? (Reward)
Sometimes, you ask, “why don’t I do what I say I’m going to do?” Let’s say you want to create a habit of saving money. Your ultimate goal is to set aside a portion of your budget for your plans of getting your dream house.
How do you do it?
- How can I make saving obvious?
- You can set a reminder on your phone on your payday with the exact amount or percentage of the amount you want to save. (e.g. 10% of your 2-weeks salary pay goes to your dream house project)
- How can I make saving up attractive?
- Create a calendar showing the dates and amount you save so you can track your progress. Sometimes, visually seeing how much you’re holding can motivate you more to continue what you’re doing. Put photos of furniture you want to put in your dream house that closely estimates the amount you have so far. This plan acts as your vision board that slowly becomes a whole house with each addition in your savings account.
- How can I make saving easy?
- If you have the option to auto-debit or transfer this specific amount to your other bank account, consider that. You can also call your bank to help you set the maximum limit of your card expenses. Or go to your online bank account settings to limit your withdrawals to ensure you don’t touch your savings.
- How can I make saving up satisfying?
- You can gamify your habit of saving up by asking your accountability partner to reward you with anything. For example, when you can set aside more than you regularly do, your buddy can walk the dog for you. (You can be creative on this one.)
Every day is an opportunity to convert bad habits into good ones. Clear says that you can ask the same questions above to evaluate bad habits, guiding you to make better choices.
Healthy habits to look into
Here are other vital habits you can develop that you may have heard before but haven’t paid attention to:
- Eat a well-balanced diet.
- Drink alcohol moderately.
- Hydrate more.
- Avoid vices such as smoking.
- Have at least 7-8 hours of sleep each day.
- Move. Work out at least 3-4x a week.
- Smile more to minimize negative vibes.
- Cultivate positive relationships and avoid toxic people.
Three steps to replacing bad habits
Everyone has established habits, but no one is exempted from the wrong ones which are often triggered by stress and boredom. If you recognize that you need to change some of your bad habits, replacement is the proper term for it.
It may be drinking too much caffeine, biting your nails, eating unhealthy food – you always have the power to replace bad habits with healthier practices.
Changing isn’t a walk in the park, of course. Norcross and Vangarelli from 1988 relieved that 77% of resolution-makers could only maintain their pledges to start anew for a clean, one week. However, 19% can stick with them for the next two years, or to simply put – eight out of ten would go back to their old habits.
So, what can you do to not fall on the same path?
Commit. Committing to a habit is essential in changing your ways. You have to be serious about your goal. If you don’t start on this proper mindset, you won’t have a direction.
Substitute. Substituting your bad habits to a new, healthier habit is the way to change them. What prompts you to do what you don’t want to? For example, if you’re feeling the urge to smoke, change it with breathing exercises. If it is spending too much time on Facebook, find a new habit that could eliminate that. Commit and plan.
Sustain. Sustaining the new habit is the most challenging part, but it is possible with the first step, commitment. Celebrate your progress. Somedays, you’d trip on your goals, but it’s always in the matter of how you go back on track.
Importance of healthy habits
Whatever it is that you’re doing now is a result of your habits over time. Anything that naturally occurs to you, any routine you’ve been doing, they’re the sum of all your patterns combined. What you do repeatedly are the things that you do all the time. The same goes for food. You develop an appetite for the food that you crave.
But, you see, healthy habits aren’t limited to food or mundane tasks. What you spend time most – doing and thinking about every day- forms which you ultimately become. Healthy habits are essential because they can prevent you from getting sick or experiencing health conditions.
A healthy lifestyle is rewarding, in and of itself, because there’s less stress and problems. You feel good about yourself, so you have a positive self-image and good self-esteem. You can confidently face each day because you are strong and healthy.
Healthy habits lower the risk of poor decision-making because certain behaviors become automatic that positively impact your life. You have better relationships and socialization with friends. You’re more productive, have more energy, and can handle stress better.
If you want to remain youthful and improve your mood every day, healthy habits can make this happen. Enjoy a quality of life that meets the length of life! Cognitive Health and Wellness Institute fully supports your journey to improve the quality of your life. Get started with healthy habits, if you haven’t yet, with recipes you can find here.