On a freshly made bed is a tray with a cup of coffee, a book and some eye glasses; by Sincerely Media via Unsplash.
Health + Wellness

How To Create and Build Healthy Habits

Any behaviour that benefits our emotional, physical and mental well-being is something that can be turned into a healthy habit. There’s no doubt that maintaining a set of practices that achieve this can improve our mood, enhance energy and provide a sense of purpose.

Implementing long-term actions that fortify our future selves can ultimately become a way to enhance daily routines and help accomplish our goals. Healthy habits are often established within the context of self-care; sustaining activities that keep us on track and nourish a mindset that focuses on improving our overall health and wellness.

Foreground Text: How To Create and Build Healthy Habits; a Health & Wellness post on Transatlantic Notes. Background Image: On a freshly made bed is a tray with a cup of coffee, a book and some eye glasses; by Sincerely Media via Unsplash.

Forming healthy habits takes effort, planning, preparation and maintenance; not to mention finding solutions to barriers/changes that may come along and disrupt our progress. It all begins with a candid look at where we want a positive shift to occur. By establishing intent — then identifying practical and actionable steps — a plan can be put in place that grows into a habitual pattern of improvement and personal care (if consistently worked on).

Unhealthy habits typically become ingrained within our behavioural routine without us realizing they’ve taken hold; we frequently use/exhibit them without even thinking. Unfortunately, this means they can get unconsciously incorporated into our daily lives. To phase out negative actions and reactions; replacing them with beneficial changes, we need to start with small, repetitive and specific actions — building towards more favourable habitual attitudes and conduct.

Experts advise that strategies such as creating a specific and reasonable goal for behavior change, being mindful of how one’s environment influences the effort to make progress toward it, and looping in other people who care about one’s progress can all help make the process of habit formation more successful. | Psychology Today

Here’s some useful steps to consider when creating healthier habits …

  • Have clear intentions about what you want to achieve (long-term)
  • Develop specific goals that will support you reaching your intentions
  • Breakdown your goals into small, defined actions that you can start doing immediately with repetition and ease — build on them when you’ve successfully implemented them over seven consecutive days
  • Celebrate a goal being met by rewarding yourself in an appropriate way
  • Repeat as necessary
A woman with short, died pink hair and thick rimmed glasses stands outside with her eyes closed and a slight, content smile on her face; by LilArtsy via Unsplash.
photo via LilArtsy/Unsplash

How To Implement Healthy Habits

For example: Wanting to exercise more is a long-term intention that’s overly broad and noncommital; by breaking it down into a specific goal, such as walking every day for 30 minutes, helps to establish motivation and a way of measuring success.

Once a specific goal is decided on; streamlining it further into easy, immediate actionable steps — walking for 5 minutes as soon as you get home from work — helps to develop habitual practice. After seven days of success at walking for 5 minutes; build on that by increasing it to 10 minutes, then 15, etc. until the ultimate goal of 30 minutes is met.

Doing it this way may seem long-winded, but it can ensure any recent healthy habits are well maintained; becoming automatic and self-fulfilling in a way that better supports integration into our everyday lives.

Regardless if it’s for emotional, mental or physical well-being; introducing self-compassionate practices often requires an overhaul and mindset shift about how we approach taking care of ourselves. Changing aspects of our lifestyle in this way can generate uncertainty or concern; implementing acts that transform can seem overly difficult or too extensive to begin with. By separating something into small, attainable steps we’re offering ourselves the most realistic chance at establishing long-lasting healthy habits — after all, success breeds success.

Once we start accomplishing things that convey a sense of pride, purpose, self-love and renewed energy; what’s to prevent us from doing more and more of what feeds our minds, bodies and souls? Dreaming big is welcome, encouraged and worthy; but starting small and making something a habit is how we get there.

Go get ’em!

What healthy habits are you working on? What has helped keep you on track?


Further Info:

The Science of Habits – Psychology Today

Healthy Habits Help Preserve Brain Health, Despite Genetics – UMMC

40 thoughts on “How To Create and Build Healthy Habits”

  1. I’ve had an issue with this off and on for a while now. I was always a very motivated person, but then my husband passed and my only child, lost my business because of the pandemic and have very little support system around me. I’ve tried different things like reaching out to people to develop new friendships, anti-depression medicine, talking with my best friend, solo traveling, but I’m still struggling. On top of all of that I have bulging discs and arthritis in my back so I can’t jog anymore, but I have been walking most days. You’re probably thinking why is this stranger telling me all of this and I’d have to say why not. Anyway, nice post.

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    1. Firstly, I’d like to say that I am so sorry you have experienced so much loss; all compounded by deep challenges that must leave you feeling exhausted. I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but having read your comment I don’t think it is your lack of ability to implement healthy habits consistently that’s at play here. It sounds like you’re still in the multifaceted layers of grief (which isn’t just about losing someone; it can be when you lose anything — job, way of life, health, etc. — which you’ve had the gambit of). You mention a lack of motivation but as this followed the loss of your husband and only child (and a number of other significant loses) it seems like you’re working through grief still (which never disappears but you eventually find ways to cope as best you can). Healthy habits will come at some point but they are secondary to all the upheaval you have to make sense of right now; survival isn’t always healthy at first (I think of the time I didn’t look after my own well-being during a very difficult time but now that I am sorting through that I can start doing small things to get back to caring for myself). A support system is vital so I hope you can find various groups locally that you can try out (tackle one thing at a time) and build on that. I wish you all the best and hope this journey ahead has some stops along the way that help you in any way that you need.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This post is full of valuable information and reinforces the notion of creating small, measurable goals in order to produce ongoing change. My thoughts are with your commenter Travel Spirit – so much loss to contend with.

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  3. These are really great tips! I’ve recently been to the doctor about my stress levels, so I’ve been working on a lot of things, including daily meditation, getting more protein and veggies, and getting more regular exercise. I keep a note on my phone and I check off what I do every day

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  4. I love these tips, you’re so right about the negative habits creeping in without even realising. I only need a week or two of falling out of good habits and still find it hard to re-establish a good routine. Right now I’m trying to work on being more organised with my daily routine x

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  5. Hi Molly,

    Mind training on a daily basis is one of my healthy habits. I do some reading and then meditate for a bit on my thoughts. Doing various forms of yoga daily also helps to open up my mind and body. Tossing in 60 to 90 minutes of power walking sums up my healthy habit ritual for the day. Great reminder here.

    Ryan

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    1. This sounds like a routine/selection of healthy habits that really works for you; it’s always great to find what works for us and clicks into place once we’ve worked on it for a while. Thanks for sharing this; I love the idea of reading and meditating!

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  6. I really enjoyed reading your post, it is interesting and I learnt a lot from it too, really great post and I look forward to reading more, Zoë xxx

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  7. I’ve had this talk with a fair few clients. But one thing that seems to get in the way, no matter the goals, is commitment. You really need to work on discipline, or it can all fall about if you’re struggling with your mental health. I wish I knew the trick to tapping into this, but it’s on my article to-do list to find out.

    One thing I know, routines can lead to habits when you do them often enough, but start super simple with your routine if you’re mental health is poor. So maybe turn that 30 minute walk into something that’s 5 minutes to start with

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    1. That’s exactly what I mention in this post; breaking down the 30 minutes of walking into 5 minutes to start with and then build on that once it has become routine. This way the commitment to do something doesn’t feel like such a huge step and we can leave it/pick it up again if/when our mental health cycles through taking a hit or improving. I struggle with healthy habits and constantly have to pick them up again but small steps are a great way to make progress.

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  8. Goals definitely need to have a plan. It’s easy to say at New Year’s that you’re going to start new habits, but without steps to accomplish these, most people abandon resolutions by February. Thanks for sharing your tips!

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  9. I love this so much! I truly do think that starting with small, specific goals is the best way to go about achieving a broader, long-term one. I also find that a reward system really helps! Thank you so much for sharing these tips.

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  10. Building healthy habits has always been a struggle for me because I don’t live life with routines! Every day is different for me and with habits, you more or less need to stick to a routine. I’ve definitely been a little better with making goals for myself which is nice! I’ve decided to just do and be gracious when things dont go as planned and try again tomorrow ❤ Lovely post, Molly!

    Lynn |

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    1. That’s the beauty of habits; they can be whatever you need them to be. As you don’t tend to have routines your idea of being gracious about things in general *is* your healthy habit; this thinking/behaviour is focused on taking care of yourself so nurturing this is exactly what you should be doing and a great healthy habit to have.

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  11. This is a really informative post about creative and keeping positive good habits. Breaking down goals can be so helpful and make them more achievable. Thank you for sharing this useful post.

    Lauren

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  12. If setting SMART goals was a blog post, it would be this one, Molly. I agree with you, building healthy habits at first takes planning and effort. I appreciate the inspiration.

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  13. I can be very directionless unless I get realistic with myself, and set concrete goals. This post was the reminder I needed! Thank you.

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