How To Build Healthy Habits, And Stick To Them!
When setting now goals, your motivation levels are high and overcoming obstacles to achieving these goals can feel easy. But what about when your motivation starts to dip?
Over time, motivation starts to dwindle - especially if progress is slow. Without motivation, suddenly those sacrifices you were happy to make seem harder, and giving up feels like an easier alternative.
Building healthy habits can be the key to unlocking lasting change and giving you the best chance at reaching your end goal, without falling off the bandwagon as soon as motivation slips. Creating habits removes the reliance on motivation, and instead focuses more on discipline and routine to get the job done.
But despite being habit masters at brushing our teeth, having our morning coffee, or listening to our favourite podcast on our commute into work – in our busy lives, it can be tough to create new habits and actually stick to them. Which is where this blog can help - below you'll find nine helpful tips and tricks to help you create healthy habits and stick to them, so you can finally reach that goal you’ve been chasing!
Start with small goals
When we first decide to make a change and motivation levels are high, we often set ambitious goals that we want to achieve, whether that's a losing a lot of weight, exercising every day, or completely transforming our diet.
Starting off with only a big end goal that takes a lot of time to achieve, and a lot of motivation to get there, can set us up for failure. This is because motivation is likely to run out when you don't quickly achieve your goal, making it harder to stay on track.
Instead, start with small goals that will help you get to the finish line. You can do this by breaking down your end goal into smaller more achievable goals, or identifying what small steps you can make to get you closer to the finishing line.
Examples of how this could look are:
- Swapping 'I want to lose 20lbs' for 'I will lose 4lbs in the next four weeks'
- Instead of 'I am going to cut all junk food out of my diet', you can try 'I am going to aim for 80% of my meals to be homemade'
- Changing 'I am going to work out for two hours every day' to 'I will get at least 6k steps most days and aim go to the gym three times a week'
While you may feel these smaller steps are less effective, it's important to remember that small habits add up to big results, especially when you are able to stick with them over time.
Make it easy
A little bit of extra prep can help to make your habit formation that little bit easier. For example, if you’re trying to go to the gym in a morning, pack your gym bag the night before and have it by the door ready to go. Or if you’re trying to eat healthier, double up on your dinner so you have healthy leftovers so you can stay on track at lunch the next day too.
By removing barriers, you make it easier to stick to your habits when your motivation is low.
Be ready to stick at it
Knowing how long it can take to form a habit is helpful to manage your expectations up front. On average, it’s thought to take on average around 2-months to build a habit so that the routine becomes habitual. While it may take more or less, having an idea of when a habit will form can keep you motivated to carry on - you can even count down the days if it keeps you on track!
Tell people to keep yourself accountable
Having other people to keep you accountable to your intentions and actions is a great way to keep you on track – especially if they’re doing it with you. Telling a close friend or partner about your goals and how you're going to reach them, and asking them to check in on your progress, can help you to stay committed on the days motivation is low.
Stack your habits
Did you know it’s easier to be consistent with an action or behaviour if you stack it with an existing habit? The key is to pick a habit that you do consistently and habitually already, and stack one small change on top before that then becomes a habit too.
A great place to start is stacking behaviours on tasks that you do every or most days, like brushing your teeth, getting into bed or commuting into work. For example, stretching while you brush your teeth, listening to a self-development podcast on your morning commute, or doing squats while you wait for the kettle to boil.
If you’re trying to be more active, you could also stack healthy habits on top of sedentary behaviours like watching tv or scrolling on TikTok. Instead of sitting on the sofa, jump on a treadmill or a bike and exercise while you’re doing that activity instead.
Create prompts and cues
Having prompts or cues can help remind us to take a certain action, which can be useful when trying to form healthy habits. This also helps to make the action ‘easier’ to complete, which is another tip discussed earlier in this article.
Your prompts and cues could be visual reminders, for example:
- moving your vitamins onto your kitchen counter so you see them in a morning
- keeping a book on your bedside table to encourage you to read before bed
- having a big water bottle on your desk at work to prompt you to drink more
Or they could be time-based reminders, such as alarms or scheduled appointments in your calendar that help to prompt you to take action. For example:
- Booking onto a workout class at a scheduled time, to prompt you to work out
- Setting an alarm on your phone to prompt you to start your bedtime routine a little earlier
Do it daily
If you do something consistently, every single day, you’re more likely to make it stick. The key is to not place pressure on how big or small the action is.
If you’re trying to build a habit of reading more, for example, remember that could be reading one page, reading one chapter, or reading for one hour. It all counts! By picking up your book and reading, you’re adding to your habit formation.
Another example is if you’re trying to build a habit of being more active. That doesn’t mean you have to be in the gym every single day to build that habit. Remember, it’s important to allow your body to rest and recover! But moving more can be anything from a gentle lunchtime walk, a 15-minute stretch and mobility flow to a full gym workout.
Doing your action daily can be a great motivation and helps by adding a gamified streak element your day. However, it’s important to remember that by showing up every day, the output and intensity will always look different. It’s recognising that small actions add up to big change.
Keep track of your progress
Progress takes time, and it can be discouraging when you don't see results. Keeping track of where you started and the steps you’ve taken so far to move closer towards your goal, as well as the progress you've made since then, can help you to stay motivated in sticking to your newfound habits.
This could be as simple as checking off the day in your calendar every time you’ve actioned a new habit (or eliminated a bad habit), taking monthly progress pictures, or recording your gym gains.
These visual trackers are a great reminder of all the days you’ve stuck to the action that are helping you reach your goal and build your healthy habits.
You don’t have to wait to reach your end goal to reward yourself - no matter how small, every achievement is valid.
Establishing rewards when you hit certain milestones along your habit formation journey can be a great motivation for sticking at it. For example, watching your favourite TV show after completing a workout or buying a new gym outfit after a month of being more active. Pairing positive actions with personal rewards (the things you like or enjoy!) means you're more likely to get up and do it even on days you don't feel like making it happen!
Above all, it’s important to build habits that are conducive to your needs and goals. Where possible, try to make it as enjoyable as possible, be persistent, and don’t be too hard on yourself on the days you slip. Remember you can always work on it the next day and adapt if necessary.
If your healthy habit goals are focused on the gym, check out our Gym Motivation guide for tips on making workouts a consistent part of your lifestyle. Our Starting Out in the Gym guide offers even more tips for getting going. If you still need a little help getting going, our Personal Trainers can help you to form healthy habits, or book into one of our fitness classes to keep your exercise consistent.