How to Create Healthy Habits That Stick

January 5, 2017

In the spirit of all the New Year’s resolutions and goals, we thought it might be time to speak about one crucial factor: how to make them stick. Whether it’s following a new fitness plan, a treatment schedule, or following a goal like running a marathon, the facts are simple: only 8% of people who make resolutions around January 1st actually keep them. Which is why we’d like to share some tried-and-true methods of how to create healthy habits that actually stick. It takes 28 days to create a habit, so here are tested ways of making it to the 30-day mark and beyond:

Know why you’re doing it – Whether it’s losing weight, eating better, getting more sleep, or working less, it helps to know why you’re doing it. Feel free to be selfish here: feeling better about yourself is a powerful motivator, and the best way to create good self-esteem is to perform estimable acts.

Start where you are – In order to get to where you’re going, you have to start where you are. Get your health information for all diet and exercise plans, see your therapist or medication professional for new mental health treatment plans, talk to your boss or company about setting new work schedules. If you know where you are, you can better set a course for where you’d like to go.

Make it a priority – This is the hardest item for most of us because a good amount of us are people pleasers. Suddenly, everyone else’s demands are more important than our own directives and we find ourselves watching our goals float away from us. Stay firm and create a winning formula. If that means you have to go to bed at 9 pm when the kids go to sleep in order to get up at 5 am and hit the gym, that’s what you need to do. Writers are known for getting up at 4 am or staying up until 1 am to write so they have completely uninterrupted time. Figure out what you need to make your goals happen, and then unapologetically stay on the path.

Remove barriers – This can be as simple as removing junk food from the house or laying out clothes the night before, but identify what’s stopping you and get rid of it. Make your partner or family members part of the solution by asking for their support. Ask a friend to meet you at your workout so you’re less likely to skip it. Volunteer for your kid’s band boosters so you know you have to leave work at a certain time. Ask your partner to put the kids to bed so you can go to bed earlier. Pack your lunch the night before. There are plenty of ways to achieve your goals. You simply need to find them.

Make small, incremental changes – Simply put, don’t set yourself up to fail. If you want to run a marathon but have never run a day in your life, start by walking. If you want to write a novel, begin with a journal. If you want to eat better, slowly remove junk from your diet instead of going cold turkey. From weaning yourself off caffeine to taking the time to find recovery meetings and fitness clubs, incremental changes are the ones that usually stick.

Reward good behavior – Finally, keep yourself incentivized. It’s known that reward is a more powerful motivator than punishment, so create a system that will give you a well-earned treat. If you make it to bed consistently for a month, get new pajamas. Staying on track with your workouts can earn you that movie night you’ve wanted. If you stay on your treatment plan, give yourself a small vacation. Just make sure the rewards boost the results of what you’re trying to accomplish: avoid food goals for weight loss efforts, and avoid substance rewards for staying clean and/or sober.