Do you struggle with making a new habit stick? Do you go all in at the beginning only to fall off the wagon a few days or weeks in? Establishing a new habit is hard, there’s no doubt. And you can’t expect it to happen overnight. In fact, research suggests that it takes an average of 66 days for your new behavior to become a habit. So know that if you’re struggling to establish a new habit and it’s only been a few weeks, you’ve got to hang in there!
If that seems easier said than done, keep reading for some tips to help you get started and stay on track!
1. Start Small
Don’t try to tackle a huge habit change all at once. Let’s say you want to get more consistent with working out. Instead of trying to commit yourself to a habit of working out seven days a week, start with something manageable and build from there. Exercising every day might not be sustainable at first, but maybe 2 days a week is doable. Or maybe you need to start even smaller and try for 10 minutes at a time.
Once you prove to yourself that you can do that consistently, increase the time or add more days to your schedule.
2. Make it a part of your daily routine
As I mentioned earlier, it takes time to form a habit (an average of 66 days). And part of what makes a behavior a habit is that you barely have to think about the action- it’s just part of what you do (like brushing your teeth or washing your face).
So to make it stick, you have to repeat that action consistently. One of the best ways to do that is to add it to your already existing routine. For example, if you want to start reading more, make it a part of your morning or bedtime routine. If you want to incorporate more movement in your day, go for a walk on your lunch break.
3. Use a reminder
It’s easy to forget to do something new, especially if it’s not a part of your daily routine yet. When you’re trying to establish a new habit, use any and all reminders that will help you to remember to do your new habit. Set an alarm on your phone, put a sticky note on your mirror, whatever you’re most likely to see the nudge to do the thing!
4. Get an accountability partner
Everything’s better with a friend, right? It’s true! Especially when you’re trying to stay motivated to achieve your health and fitness goals. Having someone to hold you accountable can be a powerful tool for making a new habit stick. Not only can they help you have a little more fun, but an accountability buddy (or a whole group!) can help you set goals, give you constructive feedback, and help you stay on track if you feel like giving up.
Your support system can be made up of family and friends, or if you want a more objective partner you could get a professional trainer or coach. It can also be really helpful to find someone who is also trying to make a similar habit change so you can take the journey together.
5. Reward yourself!
I feel like this is one of the most important tips, and it’s one that gets forgotten a lot! For a lot of us, it’s way easier to focus on the negative- what we’re doing wrong, or what we didn’t achieve. We need to get more comfortable with giving ourselves props! Even if it seems like a stupidly small thing that doesn’t warrant a celebration, giving yourself a pat on the back and rewarding yourself for the effort can go a long way in helping you stay motivated.
For many health and fitness-related habits, the results are not going to be visible right away, so it’s important to give yourself that positive reinforcement to keep going. A small reward for completing your new habit can help you to stay on the path when it feels like you’re not making any progress.
Bonus Tip: Make it Fun!
I hate to break it to you, but many of the habits that help you create a healthier lifestyle for yourself aren’t all that exciting. Getting more sleep. Drinking more water. Moving your body. Trying to stress less…
If you’re trying to establish a habit of drinking more water, that can get really boring, really fast. But if you try to find ways to make it more fun, it can help take some of the monotony out of trying to make a new habit stick.
Experiment with different flavored waters, or even fruits and veggies that have higher water content to stay hydrated throughout the day. Listen to a new podcast or make a playlist of songs that really hype you up to listen to while you workout. Share new recipes or cook with your partner or a friend to add some excitement to your meals. Whenever you can add some fun to your routine, you’ll be more likely to want to stick to it.
Two things to remember when it comes to making new habits…
Be patient! New habits take time to form, so don’t expect them to happen right away. You might even slip up once in a while, but that’s ok! Don’t let that discourage you from powering through.
Be consistent! I can’t say this one enough- habits are formed through repetition, so you’ve got to practice your new habit as consistently as possible to help it stick.
What About Getting Rid of Bad Habits?
Ok, so we just talked about how to make a new habit stick. But what if you’ve got a habit that’s getting in the way of you reaching your goals?
Here are 3 tips to help you on the path to breaking a bad habit.
1. Get to the Root
Before you can break a bad habit, you need to figure out why you’re doing it. Ask yourself why you’re doing that behavior. Are you bored, or stressed, or is something else going on? Once you know the why behind the behavior, it will be easier to find better ways to cope and break the cycle.
2. Find an Alternative
Find an alternative behavior to replace the bad habit. For example, if you’re used to snacking on unhealthy snacks when you’re bored, try having a piece of fruit or some other healthier option. Or, if you’re used to smoking when you’re stressed, take a deep breath, go for a walk, or find some other stress-relieving activity.
3. Make it a Challenge
Kind of like how you set a goal for yourself to establish a new habit, you can make breaking your bad habit a challenge. Set a goal for yourself that leads you towards eliminating your unwanted habit (start small and make it something that’s realistic for you to achieve). Give yourself little rewards along the way to help you stay motivated and keep you on track.
Remember that just like trying to start a new habit, it’s going to take time to kick the old habit. Be patient, be consistent, and don’t give yourself a hard time when you have slip-ups!