Make Your Healthy Habits Stick With These 6 Tips

Make Your Healthy Habits Stick With These 6 Tips

Launch into any new health or fitness challenge and you’re bound to feel motivated. Problem is, over time the toll of these big, new behavior scan start to weigh you down - until eventually, it just feels easier to give up. Which doesn't exactly bode well for creating confidence–or change.

There has been a steady rise in holistic fitness and wellness challenges lately. Many of these popular challenges are uber-intense, requiring individuals to completely overhaul their lifestyle. But do they actually work? “In those instances, I would say it’s rare that all aspects of a challenge will lead to ongoing behavior change,” says Orangetheory research scientist Dr. Brittany Leboeuf, PhD.

Here are a few things you can do instead to ensure that your new healthy habits stick:

1. Make It Mean Something:

When it comes to lasting behavior change, researchers have identified a few big predictors of success. At the top of the list: a strong reason for wanting to change. “Whether it’s a history of disease in your family or becoming a parent, people should reflect frequently on their ‘why,’” says Laboeuf.


2. Personalize Your Plan:

Tailoring daily habits to improve life is crucial for lasting change. Even if your goal is similar to someone else, your approach might need to be very different. For example, the approach for a young, single college student versus an older, married woman with four kids will be different. “And that is ok–different does not mean bad!” says Laboeuf. “The key is figuring out what works for you, and your life.

Create a personalized plan by selecting and combining health habits that resonate with your lifestyle.  For instance, a college student might focus on exercise and time management, while a parent prioritizes nutritious meal prep and stress reduction. Experiment, find what works for you and build a sustainable routine that aligns with your goals and enhances overall well-being. The key is flexibility and embracing your uniqueness for long-term success.


3. Start Slowly:

The ultimate goal is to integrate as many consistent healthy behaviors as you can, says Laboeuf. But that doesn’t mean you need to add the mall at once. This is especially important if you have weight-loss goals. “Changing body composition takes time. To retain as much muscle as possible, you actually don’t want to lose a bunch of weight very fast. A slow, consistent trend of weight loss will be easier to maintain once your goal weight is achieved.”


4. Practice Patience:

Consistency and patience are fundamental in the journey towards establishing and maintaining healthy habits. Consistency contributes to behavioral reinforcement, strengthening the habit through positive associations like the satisfaction of a workout or improved well-being from better sleep. Patience is crucial, especially during the initial stages of habit formation, helping people navigate challenges without getting discouraged.

How many days to create a habit?

Recent studies challenge the common belief of a 21-day rule for habit formation. According to a study in the European Journal of Social Psychology, the time needed varies widely among individuals.

“Health is for a lifetime–not for 30 days,” says Laboeuf. “It might take months, years, or even decades to fully realize the investment you are making. Every little decision and behavior can add up over time to improve your health across your lifetime.” 


5. Acknowledge Small Improvements:  

Keep your motivation high by taking notice of the smallest things that have improved through your new habits, says Laboeuf. “Are you less stressed? Do you feel more well-rested? More energy? Clearer mind? While these changes may not feel radical, over time they will contribute positively to our health.”


6. Build a Support System:

 This might be the most important factor for lasting behavior change. “People inherently want to feel connected to others. If the people you interact with don’t respect your healthy lifestyle, it can be more difficult to stay on track,” says Laboeuf. “This doesn’t mean you can’t have people in your life who live different lifestyles, but finding a community of people who share your values–like your OTF community–is really important for lasting behavior change.”


7. Stack Your Habits:

Incorporate new habits into your routine by stacking them onto already established behaviors. This technique, known as habit stacking, leverages the power of associations to make the adoption of new habits smoother. Identify a behavior you already do consistently, and pair it with anew habit you want to form.

For example, if you always brush your teeth before bed, attach anew habit of doing a quick stretching routine right after brushing. This way, the established habit serves as a trigger for the new one, making it easier to integrate into your daily life.


8. Reward Yourself:

Celebrate your achievements along the way by incorporating rewards in your habit forming journey. Recognizing and rewarding your efforts, no matter how small, reinforces positive behavior. It can be as simple as treating yourself to a favorite snack after completing a week of consistent exercise or taking time for a relaxing activity when you achieve a specific milestone.

Rewards create a positive association with your habits, making you more motivated to stick with them. Just ensure that the rewards align with your overall health goals, promoting a balanced and sustainable approach to self-gratification.

Creating a sustainable lifestyle with habit forming

The path to a sustainable lifestyle with habit forming is a very personal journey. By making it meaningful, personalizing your plan, starting slowly, practicing patience and following more of these tips, you can increase your chances of making lasting behavior changes. The goal is not a fleeting transformation but a lifelong commitment to health and well-being. The key lies in understanding that every decision, every habit, contributes to a healthier, more fulfilling life across the span of your life.


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