How to Build a New Habit: 8 Tips that Really Work

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How to Build a New Habit | We are often motivated at the prospect of building new, healthy habits, like exercising more and eating better, but once the initial excitement wears off, our motivation tends to dip. Building lasting habits - and sticking to them - takes time and effort. Some say it takes a minimum of 21 days for a habit to stick, but if you aren't making lifestyle changes (habit stacking helps!), it will be harder to keep with it. Click for our best tips to build habits that last!

Having good habits is key to living a happier, healthier life. While some habits, like brushing our teeth and eating breakfast are ingrained in us, others take time to build. The thing is, many of us try to make bold changes in our lives without taking the steps needed for success. We want to start exercising more, eating better, or practicing meditation, but we don’t always go about it the right way. Building lasting habits takes time and effort. It’s a commitment, and may require you to change certain things about your environment and lifestyle. Wondering how to build a new habit? Here are eight tips to help!

How to Build a New Habit

1. Know How Long It Takes to Build a New Habit
It’s important to know how long it takes to build a new habit. Being aware of this from the beginning makes it easier to manage your expectations. You’ll be able to make small, incremental improvements and you don’t have to get down on yourself if you try something for a few weeks and it doesn’t stick.

So how long does it take to form a new habit? According to James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, on average it takes more than two months before a new behaviour becomes automatic (66 days to be exact). Individual differences, such as personality, lifestyle, and the specific behaviour can help explain why some people form habits faster (or slower) than others.

2. Start Small
If you want to start making positive changes in your life, it’s usually best to start small. Big behaviour changes require a lot of motivation that can’t usually be sustained. Since motivation rises and falls from day to day, and even throughout the day, choose a new habit that’s so easy (and small) that you don’t need motivation to do it. Rather than trying to get to the gym five days a week, go for a short walk everyday. Rather than meditating for 10 minutes a day, start with meditating for two minutes a day. Start with things that are reasonably easy to do so you don’t have an excuse to say no.

3. Try Habit Stacking
Habit stacking involves “stacking” a new behaviour you’re trying to adopt on a current behaviour to help you remember to do it and perform it with less mental effort. It’s super effective as it builds off the existing neural networks in our brains.

For example, let’s say you want to start a daily meditation. If you’ve been finding it hard to add mindfulness to your day, try stacking it on your morning cup of coffee (or tea). Once you pour your morning beverage of choice, immediately take it into another room for a meditation exercise. The ritual of making your coffee will cue your next habit (meditation).

4. Be Prepared
We’re more likely to form a new habit when it’s easy to do so and there aren’t any obstacles in our way. An example of this is packing your gym bag and leaving it in the car so it’s there for you when you’re finished work. Doing at-home workouts where you don’t even have to leave your living room is another way to form an easy exercise habit. Another example is pre-making healthy breakfasts like overnight oats or egg bites on Sunday night so you have them to eat every morning of the week. Being prepared ahead of time will set you up for success.

5. Reward Yourself
Rewards are a key part of habit formation. While some rewards are immediate (feeling clean after you’ve showered) others, like weight loss, take longer to show up. In these cases, it’s helpful to create an immediate reward to help you form the habit. For example, listening to your favourite podcast or watching your favourite reality show while you’re on the treadmill can help reinforce an exercise habit. Or plan to go to a workout class with a friend, so your reward is the time spent with them.

6. Take Control of Your Environment
If you want to change an old bad habit into a good habit, your environment is a major part of the puzzle. It’s so important that your environment supports the changes you want to make. Let’s say the new habit you want to build is to eat healthy and not drink alcohol during the week. If you go to a bar with co-workers after a bad day, it’s going to be harder to change this behaviour. Instead, opt to meet friends at a café or a park, or plan to do an activity together. Hanging out in places where there’s no alcohol and healthier food options will make it easier to build better habits.

7. Focus on Adapting Your Lifestyle
Many times when we try to change or adopt a new habit, we’re too focused on short-term results like losing 10 pounds for a wedding or saving enough money to splurge on a new bag. Focusing on short-term outcomes often leads you to going back to old habits once you’ve achieved the short-term goal. The key to lasting change is adapting your lifestyle. Think about your new habit as a long-term commitment you’re going to be doing for the rest of your life, and change your lifestyle to fit with it.

8. Get Back on Track Quickly
When you’re trying to build a new habit, it’s likely that you may forget to do it from time to time. Having an all-or-nothing mentality will get you nowhere. If you fall off track, get back on track as quickly as possible. Don’t use it as an excuse to quit, just focus on being someone who never misses a habit twice. You can also try to plan ahead and consider what may prevent your habit from happening.

For example, are there daily emergencies that could pull you off course? If so, then how can you plan to work around those issues? Perhaps you’re building a new habit of taking supplements at breakfast and dinner. If you’re going out for dinner, you may forget to take them. In this case, you could either set an alarm to take them before or after you get home, or pack them in your purse and set an alarm to take them while you’re at dinner. If you forget to take them at dinner, just make sure to take them the next morning at breakfast.

Building a new habit takes time, commitment, and effort. We hope these tips help you create better habits and live a healthier, happier life!

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How to Build a New Habit | We are often motivated at the prospect of building new, healthy habits, like exercising more and eating better, but once the initial excitement wears off, our motivation tends to dip. Building lasting habits - and sticking to them - takes time and effort. Some say it takes a minimum of 21 days for a habit to stick, but if you aren't making lifestyle changes (habit stacking helps!), it will be harder to keep with it. Click for our best tips to build habits that last!

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