How to Develop Healthy Habits That Stick

Posted in Balanced Body | September 23, 2009 |

healthy lifestyle

Image by LeRamz

Cultivating healthy habits is something most of us put on their New Year resolution lists and never actually get to. One of the reasons it is so difficult to cultivate healthy habits is because it requires changing your tastes, your routines and your life in general. Most people are not ready for this and each of their attempts is a complete failure. I had the same problem for many years until I finally learned to develop habits that stick.

I am sure that any person can live a healthy life if they really want to. Some changes might be easy (drinking more water, adding a few servings of fruits and veggies every day) and some might be really challenging (giving up smoking, committing to exercise) but all of these changes are definitely doable. I have tried a lot of different approaches to cultivate healthy habits that stick and here are the ones that finally worked for me.

    1. Start with easy habits. If you are just starting out on your way to healthy living then you must see some results right away. Choose something small and easy like drinking 8 glasses of water every day. You will feel successful and it will be easier for you to try something more difficult the next time.
    2. Give each habit 30 days. 30 Days to Success was the first article that I read on this issue and it was the most helpful advice I have ever gotten. Anybody can stick to doing something for one month. Tell yourself that if you still do not like it after 30 days then you can give up on this habit and try something new. In 30 days you will start feeling better as well as see the first benefits of your habit and it will become a part of your lifestyle.

  1. Realize that some healthy habits are not for you. No matter how healthy celery is I cannot eat it. I remember one time I was on some body-cleansing diet and one day I had to eat as much celery as possible. I was committed to learning to like celery. I was able to get through breakfast with my celery but when lunch time came around I just couldn’t stomach it (literally). I don’t need to go into details about what happened next but needless to say I didn’t fill well the rest of the day. Eating celery is one of the healthy habits that do not work for me.
    Listen to your body and do not force yourself to do something that your body does not want to be doing. If you cannot eat fish, then go with walnuts and olive oil for your daily supply of omega-3s. If you do not like high impact activities like running or kick-boxing then go with Yoga, Pilates and walking. You do not have to do it all in order to be healthy.
  2. Go for it 100%. Some people think that it is better to gradually ease into your healthy habit. I found out that it is much easier to go the whole 9 yards from the very beginning and see if you can keep up or not. When I was trying to lose weight I knew that I had to give up sweets. I committed myself to not eat anything with sugar for one month. I lost weight and I learned to appreciate non-sweet things. I still like sweets but now they are just occasional treats and not every day must-haves. When you work hard to achieve something you learn to appreciate what you are doing.
  3. Do 1 healthy habit at a time. You do not need to rush and develop a ton of healthy habits all at once. Choose 1 habit every month and commit to trying it. Take one step at a time and you will feel how easy it is to live a healthy life. Healthy living should not be stressful; it must be balanced and relaxed.
  4. Study your healthy habit and realize why you need it. Understanding why you have to develop a healthy habit is one of the most important factors that will help you stick with this habit. A lot of my young slender friends ask me “Why should I exercise? I am not overweight then why should I waste my time on exercise?” If they do not understand the importance of exercise then they won’t be able to stick with it. It won’t be a priority in their life. Before you commit to your 30 day trial make a list of benefits that this healthy habit will bring you and review this list every time you think about ditching it. In the case of exercise, some of the benefits will be: strong heart and bones, sexier body, no pains associated with a sedentary lifestyle, and an investment in good health for the future.
  5. Learn the consequences of not developing healthy habits. This fear might become your biggest motivation to develop a healthy habit. If you are a smoker then learn everything you can about lung cancer and the danger of smoking for people around you. If you are trying to lose weight then learn about all health problems associated with being overweight.
  6. Allow yourself to fail. Some of your attempts won’t be successful from the beginning but this is not a reason to give up on this habit. If you are trying to lose weight and you go out and have a huge hamburger and a gigantic size chocolate sundae for dessert then do not be hard on yourself. Accept it as a bump in the road and continue with your healthy eating plan the next day.
  7. Recruit support. Tell your friends and relatives your big plans and ask them to monitor you. If you are trying to go vegetarian then ask your significant other to do the same thing with you. If you are trying to start running then ask your friend to start running with you. If you are trying to cut down on sweets then ask your colleague at work to not offer you cookies and chocolate bars during lunch.
  8. Write it down. Create a diary where you will write down every healthy habit that you are trying and track your progress. If you are trying to exercise then write down every workout that you had, how it made you feel, what was easy, what was difficult and so on. This diary will help you stay focused on your goal.

The first healthy habit that you will try to cultivate will be the most difficult one, but every one after that will get only easier and easier. In no time you will find yourself living a healthy and balanced life without even thinking about it.

What is the first healthy habit you are going to try?

Keep it balanced!

Smart Thoughts (9)

  1. Great post. One of the most important points of all here is to constantly repeat your habit again and again. Like you said commit to at least 30 days. This also allows the habit to slowly become ingrained in your subconscious.

  2. I love the remember to let yourself fail point. I know a lot of people that feel like they just can’t do it, because they had no room for failure in their mind.

  3. Madeleine says:

    Anastasiya, You make many good points in this post about developing healthy habits. I am in complete agreement about taking small steps and trying something for just 30 days at first. As you say, anyone can manage 30 days of a new behavior.

    I agree about failing also, although I’d probably call it “falling off the wagon.” It really is a mistake to be too hard on yourself when that happens. Finally, writing things down is crucial. Weight Watchers has people track everything they eat for several weeks. The 10,000 step Program has people wear pedometers and write down the number of steps per day. You can’t change your behaviour, unless you know what your behavior is. Well done.

  4. Anastasiya says:

    I appreciate your response Justin, Jai Kai and Madeleine. I am happy that you share my ideas about developing healthy habits. So many people do not realize what it really takes to create these habits and they usually give up without even trying. I think that our society would have been much healthier if people have put a little more effort into their healthy habits and in their health and well-being in general.

  5. For me, it started with committing. Once I flipped that proverbial “switch” in my head, and turned on the “Yes, I’ll do this” thinking, everything else fell into place. Eating healthier, exercising more regularly, incorporating new healthy habits a little bit at a time — all of these things got easier once I made a commitment to myself.

    Sure, I occasionally skip a gym day, or order truffle fries at my favorite lunch spot, or have two desserts in one day (!), but I forgive myself because the healthy habits have formed and I know I prefer to maintain them.

  6. Anastasiya says:

    @Belinda
    Congratulations with sticking with your healthy habits! You have the most winning attitude towards healthy lifestyle. You need to enjoy life and sometimes enjoying life means being lazy and spending the whole day on the coach or indulging in a delicious calorie-packed dessert :-) The main thing is that this is just a “treat” and not a life-time bad habit.

  7. Patrick says:

    Anastasiya, that is a brilliant summary of changing anything. I had the instant impulse to RT it (and I did). You have brought out the essence of change so good that I cannot advice others to go over this article more than once. Especially the advice to listen to your own body. There is no define route that fits all. Make your own decisions and experiments. If you don’t like something or it doesn’t feel good, don’t drop your goal. Change your approach. It is the same with point 4. Some people need to slowly get into a habit, some need to go 100% right from the start. There is no wrong or right. Find out how you tick.

    Again, excellent read.

  8. Krishna says:

    Really enjoyed this post. Some of the points that resonated with me:

    5. Do 1 healthy habit at a time. – So many times I am tempted to go for 3-4 habit changes in parallel and a few months down the line, nothing has stuck. Sometimes, just going for it one at a time is far more effective!

    6. Study your healthy habit and realize why you need it. – Very important, just reflecting on why I need to exercise and the big purpose, usually every night before going to bed has helped a lot! Right on the dot….

    8. Allow yourself to fail. – Aim for progress, not perfection.

    Thanks Anastasiya, will tell you how I go in a months time :-), with goal number one – exercise regularly :-).

    Cheers,
    Krishna

  9. Anastasiya says:

    @Patrick, @Krishna
    Thanks for retweets! I am glad that you found these tips useful. Good luck with your healthy habits!