Healthy Living

5 Tips for Building Healthy Habits

Feb 9 2023

From getting more fit to eating better foods, nearly all of us want to be healthier in some way.

Adopting new habits can help, but turning an action into a habit sometimes proves challenging. To begin building healthy daily habits and making them stick, take advantage of the following tips.

First, start small and be specific.

Being too broad with your goals can be your downfall when trying to build healthy habits. To boost your chances for success, start small and be specific.

Break big goals, like getting in shape or reducing stress, into small, specific steps. For instance, each day you might try walking once around your block, meditating for five minutes or doing one set of one strength training exercise. If you start small, it’s easier for a habit to take root. Then, you can add more laps, minutes or reps gradually over time.

Second, pair healthy habits with a fun activity.

When you pair healthy lifestyle habits with an activity you enjoy, over time your mind believes the two activities go together. So, the pairing will eventually become the habit.

Examples of this might include:

  • Doing your nighttime brushing and flossing just before streaming your favorite TV show
  • Having your favorite tea or coffee right after you’ve taken a morning walk
  • Preparing healthy meals with friends by way of a video chat
  • Riding your stationary bike while listening to a best-selling audiobook

Third, try replacing a bad habit with a good one.

Relying on willpower alone to change a bad habit can set you up for failure. So, when you’re trying to stop a bad habit, don’t quit cold turkey. Instead, try replacing it with a good habit instead.

Here are a few examples for replacing bad habits with good ones:

  • After work, walk your dog instead of watching TV.
  • Spend time reading a book or magazine instead of surfing social media.
  • Swap unhealthy nighttime snacks for a cup of herbal tea and honey.
  • When you get a craving for tobacco, try meditation or guided imagery instead.

Fourth, be sure to take pleasure in new healthy daily habits you’re creating.

It’s always easier to carve out time from a busy schedule for activities you enjoy. That’s why pleasurable activities are more likely to become habits. Whether you need to exercise more, stress less or eat healthier, there are always enjoyable ways to do it.

Try these healthy habits to start enjoying your life more:

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables by growing them yourself.
  • Encourage healthy sleep habits with a soothing sounds app and soft, new bedding.
  • Foster healthy eating habits by taking a vegetarian cooking class.
  • Get the whole family involved in healthy activities, like biking and swimming, or active games like tag, kickball or hide-and-seek.
  • Go on regular walks or jogs, or take an exercise class with your partner or a good friend.
  • Reduce stress with a walk through the park, a boat ride across the lake or a hike in the woods.
  • Relax with yoga, tai chi, meditation, guided imagery, a warm bath or soft music.
  • Replace your salt shaker with herbs like lemon zest, dried basil, oregano, onion powder and minced garlic.
  • Try new physical activities like dancing, pickleball, bowling or rollerblading.

And last, be patient with yourself as you learn how to build a good habit.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “to lose patience is to lose the battle.”

When you’re trying to start healthy habits and make them stick, patience is key. Embrace the process of change and avoid setting deadlines for goal achievement. Instead, focus on health benefits, like lower blood pressure, reduced cholesterol and better heart health. This reinforces the notion that healthy habits are lifelong and not temporary.

Getting healthier takes time, effort and patience, but the end result is worth it.

Learn about the primary care services we offer at Mercy Health.

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