I hate to be that person, but I’ve been pretty good about sticking to my new year’s resolutions and kicking butt in 2018. The other morning, my roommate came downstairs and caught me reading my book and drinking tea before work and she begged me to just have one unhealthy habit (trust me, I have plenty including an unhealthy relationship with sweets and a bad habit of napping when I have 10,000 things to do), which got me to thinking about how I developed my current healthy habits that I try to practice every day.
I’ve talked about wanting to create habits before in my New Year, New Resolutions post, but let’s talk about why healthy habits are the key to a happy life and how to create them. You don’t need a new year, a new month, or a new week to kick-off a healthy habit.
So, let’s get started!
Why We Should Create Healthy Habits
There’s an entire book dedicated to what can happen in your life if you create healthy habits. Charles Duhigg’s “The Power of Habit” goes into detail about what can happen when you change your habits and how it changes the fundamental way your brain makes connections and establishes routine. Basically, creating habits — good or bad — has the power to change the course of your life entirely.
When I started creating habits for myself, it was to become the best version of myself I could be. I was going through a phase of not really knowing who I was, and I resorted to comparing myself to others. Spoiler alert: That’s never beneficial. So one day, I looked at what I wanted to improve about myself, and I got to work on figuring out how I could make those changes.
My first goal was to become more educated. There are a hundred ways I could have achieved this, but I decided I wanted to do a mentally stimulating activity every day (puzzles, riddles, etc.), read the news, and read books on a more regular basis. I started by finding an activity I loved — the crossword. I used to do the New York Times crossword with my grandma when I was a kid, so that particular mindbender has always held a special place in my heart. Now, I do the USA Today Crossword because it’s free, and it’s great for beginners (which I feel like I still am). I incorporate the news into my daily schedule with news briefs like The Skimm and The NYT Daily Briefing. I also dedicate a lot more of my social media time to Twitter because it’s a platform geared towards news consumption, or at least I can tailor my feed to that particular need. To incorporate reading into my daily routine, I made it part of my nighttime ritual. Instead of watching Netflix before bed, I would read a couple pages from my book. It’s a small change, but trust me, it leads to big results.
Ever since creating these habits, I feel accomplished each and every day, even if all I do is cross those little “to-dos” off my list. Having these habits in place means I do something to better my mind and body each day. You can create whatever habits you wish to. Want to start cooking? Make it a habit to cook at least three times a week. Want to get better at drawing? Set aside a half-hour every day to make that happen. You don’t have to dedicate all day, every day to achieve change in your life. Focus on small habit changes, and grow from there. Let’s figure out how we can make these goals a reality.
How To Create Healthy Habits
The most important thing to remember is consistency and preparation when developing a new habit. If you want to create a daily habit of flossing, try to do it every day for a week. If you’re looking to create a weekly habit of washing your sheets, set aside a designated day to complete that task before the week begins. The best thing about creating habits is that you can start small and build up to your goal. Also, there’s no science to it. Whatever works for you is what’s best. Here are some methods I found that have worked for me in my journey to develop healthy habits.
Method #1 – Write Them Down
This is the method I find that helps me achieve my goals. If you love checking items off a to-do list, this will be really beneficial for you. I started bullet journaling in 2018, and every week I create a habit tracker to record when I’ve completed a habit. I have an entire spread dedicated to fitness where I log what type of exercise I completed each day, but my weekly habits include activities like getting enough sleep, drinking water, and journaling. Physically seeing these habits on paper and being able to cross them off when I’ve completed them is the best way for me to hold myself accountable to my goals.
Method #2 – Tell Someone
Another great way to hold yourself accountable to your desired habits is to tell someone about them. Whether it’s your mom or your roommate, having someone else know what you want to accomplish (long-term and short-term) is a great way to keep you on course for actually reaching those goals. When you tell someone about the habits you want to create, it means they can help hold you accountable for reaching those goals. They don’t see you lacing up your sneakers to go to the gym? You better bet they are going to say something to you, which is exactly what you want — someone on your team to encourage you every step of the way.
Method #3 – Schedule a Reminder
We’ve got these amazing devices these days called cell phones that make accomplishing tasks so much easier (and so much harder). If you’re not a pen-and-paper person like myself, I suggest using your phones calendar or reminder feature to schedule your daily/weekly habits. If one of your goals is to establish a skin care routine, schedule a recurring event or reminder in your phone to alert you 20 minutes before you go to sleep that it’s time for you to start that routine (or whatever other habit it is you want to create).
Notes About Habit Making
Breaking a Bad Habit
Sometimes it isn’t about making new habits, but breaking bad ones. You can do that with these methods, too. For example, I want to spend less time on social media, so I have that as one of my habit tracker items to focus on every day. Sometimes I succeed, and sometimes I spend all day scrolling through the Instagram Explore page — the point is that I’m trying, and I don’t write it off as a failure if I have a little bump in the road on my way to a healthy habit. You can also attempt to break a bad habit by replacing it with a better habit. For instance, maybe you’re trying to eat fewer sweets. Try replacing your typical cookie or brownie with something homemade, low sugar, or naturally sweet like fruit.
Reward Yourself for Good Behavior
Don’t underestimate the power of the reward system. It worked when we were kids, and it still works now. But, it’s important to remember not to reward yourself with something that is going to negate all your hard work. Going back to the sweets example — if you’re going to try to eat fewer sweets, don’t reward yourself with an entire gallon of ice cream on Friday for making it the whole work week without candy. Maybe treat yourself to dinner out with a friend or a whole evening of guilt-free Netflix. Your reward is completely going to depend on what your desired habits are, but don’t lose site of your overall goals along the way.
Life Comes First
While it’s important to create habits you want to achieve the most out of life, it’s also important to allow flexibility for change, growth, and adventure. If you’re going on a trip, it’s okay to deviate from your habits. Skip a day at the gym. Or forego your 20 minutes of reading at night to get a little extra sleep. Habits are intended to help you live your best life not leave you feeling like your constrained in a box. There’s a fine line between establishing healthy habits, and losing yourself to the monotony of routine. Figure out where your line is.
Remember that you can create whatever kind of habit you want to make your life better. The sky is the limit when you’re deciding how your best life looks. Let me know what healthy habits you want to create in the comments below!
Happy habit making,