Healthy Lifestyle Tips: How to Make a Habit Change Stick
Article at a glance
Research indicates that it can take up to 10 weeks to make a habit change stick, so it’s important to have patience as the process begins.
Adopting healthy habits may include eating a nutrient-rich diet or increasing exercise and activity levels.
Setting goals, starting with small changes and tracking your progress, can help you stick to good habits.
Finding an “accountability partner” or joining a group can build a community of like-minded people who support your health and fitness goals.
The keys to success when making a habit change are: taking your time, accepting that setbacks can happen, and moving forward on your path to success.
Creating new habits and sticking to them is possible, but it takes time and patience. You may wonder, “How long does it take to form a habit?” The answer is: several days to weeks, depending on the person or the habit. The Harvard Business Review reports that habit changes occur at different rates for different people. So if you’re ready to change your lifestyle and develop healthier habits, it’s important to have patience as you work to achieve your goals. Read on to learn more healthy lifestyle tips that can make adopting new habits easier.
Define Your Goals
Setting a goal is the first step in changing your lifestyle, so before you begin establishing healthy habits, think about your goals and your motivation behind them. Perhaps you want to follow a healthy diet and exercise routine to help you lose weight. Set a realistic, measurable goal so you can track your progress and, just as important, ensure that you stay on track. For example, your overall goal might be to lose 30 pounds or to exercise four times a week. With a goal in sight, you can then develop a realistic plan for achieving it.
Stick to a Diet by Starting Small
According to the American Heart Association, changing habits is a challenge because habits and behaviors have become automatic, and we often act without much thought. Transforming your habits completely takes time, so it’s best to start small and then build up to more challenging lifestyle changes. For example, you might start healthier diet changes for just one mealtime, over the course of a week. You can aim to increase your protein intake for the first week. Then the next week, you can limit the processed foods you eat and gradually replace them with healthy fruits and vegetables.
Small changes in your behavior can have a big impact on helping you change your habits. As you slowly replace unhealthy foods with healthier options, or change the times of day that you are inactive to times that you exercise, you can establish a better exercise routine. Be realistic in your goals, knowing that it can take time and patience to achieve them.
Find an Accountability Partner
An accountability partner can help you learn how to stick to a diet or achieve another healthy lifestyle goal. Pair up with someone who has achieved similar goals or is in the process of working toward the same goal that you are. For example, you might find a neighbor who is working to increase their daily step count, so perhaps you can suggest going on a walk together every morning. Get together with a friend who is a great cook and learn some new recipes that fit within your diet. You can also find a family member you can check in with daily or weekly and share an update on your progress. Working with a team to achieve your goals can also help you stay on track.
Rewards can provide some extra motivation when you’re on the path to a healthier lifestyle. Once you’ve defined your goals, you can choose some rewards to celebrate your success. Rewards don’t necessarily have to cost a lot of money. You can invite a few friends over to try out a favorite new healthy recipe. Or schedule a family walk on a trail that you found after a month of regular exercise. By practicing a healthy lifestyle, you may be more motivated to achieve your goals.
Let’s face it: You may not meet your goals every single day. You’re probably going to have an “off day” every now and then. But, that one day when you don’t meet your healthy lifestyle goals doesn’t have to set you back. It’s important to accept that every journey to a healthier lifestyle has some bumps in the road. By seeing these days as just “slip-ups”—and nothing more—you can keep your focus on your overall goals.
Use a Habit Tracker
Tracking your habits is a great way to see how far you’ve come. Make notes in a journal, or use a habit-tracking app (available on both Apple and Android devices). Every day, track your success by making a note of the steps you achieved to get closer to your goals. Your habit tracking can be as specific or general as you prefer. Some people want to track their daily food intake, some want to track their exercise, while others might just want to highlight one healthy habit they started. When you’re feeling frustrated or having a discouraging day, looking at all the good habits you’ve established can be a source of encouragement.
Identify Your Triggers
Everyone faces a trigger than can throw them off track. Understanding what situations trigger unhealthy habits is the first step to avoiding them. For example, you might know that eating out often leads to overeating or ordering unhealthy foods. If that happens, you can limit what places you go to, or check the restaurant menu in advance to find a healthy option. Being aware of potential obstacles can help you overcome them.