Habits are the foundation of your life. If you want to lose weight, feel better or reach your goals, it all starts with creating better habits.
Let’s have a look at what habits are, what they can do for you, and how you can begin to build better habits in your life.
What are good habits?
Habits are automatic and repeated behaviors that control your daily routines. Good habits are behaviors that have a positive impact on your life. Either on your physical or mental health.
Habits control 40% of everything you do. Just think about it. Almost half of everything you do every day is done out of habit. In other words, if you have good and healthy habits, nearly half of your behavior is positive, healthy, and reinforces success.
Habits shape who you are, who you’ll become, and what you’ll end up doing in life. You build the foundation necessary for improving yourself with good habits.
How healthy habits help us in life
Good habits are the foundation for any success in life. You might have a decent mindset and understand people’s intentions. But if your habits suck, you won’t get to where you want to be. Without good habits, you will find it hard to find the time and energy to work on yourself and your dreams.
All successful people share one thing. They have developed some great habits that they can rely on. They have developed them to free themselves from depending on willpower. To not waste time on small, meaningless decisions. You can use habits to do the same for you. To help you build a better and happier life.
Examples of good habits
We’re all different, and the habit I view as good might be bad for you. For a behavior to be good, it has to fulfill two criteria.
- The habit has to correlate and aid you towards reaching your goals.
- The habit can’t cause future harm to your mental or physical health.
There are some habits that we all can benefit from. Let’s have a look at some of these:
The behaviors mentioned above aren’t just good. They’re what we call keystone habits, which are behaviors that create a sort of ripple effect. These ripples will affect other areas of our lives and can create a strong positive impact.
If you don’t already do the six behaviors mentioned above, you can begin slowly working on them. I found great success working on them in the order they are listed, but you can start with any of them.
Related: The best habits for self-improvement
How do habits work?
For a behavior to be or become a habit, it has to go through the four stages of the habit loop:
We see, hear, smell, or in other ways, sense something that triggers the craving.
We don’t crave the actual behavior but instead the reward. That’s why it can be difficult to build healthy behaviors we enjoy because they aren’t especially rewarding to the brain.
The behavior is where we do the habit. It’s often the step we focus on when thinking about habits.
The reward is what comes after the behavior. It tells your brain that what you just did was great and that you should do it again.
The cue triggers the craving, which makes you do a behavior. In the end, you get your reward.
As you go through the loop enough times, with all four steps present, the cue will automatically be tied to the reward, and the behavior becomes automatic. The habit is formed.
How to form a good habit
To build a habit, all four steps in the habit loop have to be present. Below are 9 proven strategies to help you make better and healthier habits.
Be clear with your intentions
Your intentions are often the difference between success and failure. When it comes to habits, it’s no different.
If you begin journaling just because some guy on the internet told you to do it, it won’t be enjoyable or sustainable.
If you begin journaling because you want to think clearer, get rid of intrusive thoughts, and build a stronger mind, it will be far more enjoyable and easier to stick to.
Before starting a new behavior, ask yourself why. Often, you’ll find that there is a deeper meaning to the habits you want to build.
It might be difficult to come up with an answer the first few times, but it’ll be easier the more you do it as your ability to think clearly becomes better.
Related: Identity-based habits
Habit stacking is the easiest and simplest way to create new habits. It requires little preparation and effort, but the success rate is high.
Habit stacking is when you place the new behavior after or between existing habits. Done enough times, the reward of the previous behavior will act as the cue for the desired behavior.
You can begin stacking habits after dinner, on your way home from work, or straight after you wake up. There are no limits to this strategy, except there has to be a habit for you to build on.
Design your environment
You can design your environment to leave yourself reminders. You can do this with notes or items related to the behavior.
If you want to go to the gym, you can leave your gym bag at the front door or in the passenger seat of your car.
If you want to read more, you can leave a book on your nightstand. There’s no wrong way to create these reminders.
Make the behavior easy
The more mental or physical effort a behavior requires, the less likely you are to do it. An effective way to combat this is to reduce the steps between when you start preparing for the behavior and to it begins.
You can design your environment to make it easy. You can leave the book you want to read out on the table. Or always have a notebook and a pen on your desk for journaling.
You can prepare for the behavior the day before. Motivation is bigger the day before than when you’re about to do it. If you have prepared everything, it’s easy to begin.
Make the behavior as easy as possible. There’s less time to talk yourself out of it, and you’re more likely to do it.
Do something you like together with the new behavior
Not all good habits are pleasant the first couple of times you do it. Until you begin to naturally like it, you can pair it with something you like.
You can listen to your favorite podcast or good music while you walk. What before might have been a boring activity is suddenly exciting. You’re not going for a walk anymore. You’re going out to listen to your favorite podcast.
Over time, the new behavior can be tied to the reward, and it becomes enjoyable on its own.
Be with the right people
As humans, we want to feel like we belong. The easiest way to do this is to conform to the norms of our social environment. In other words, we usually end up being the people we spend the most time with.
If you want to get in great shape, find people with the same ambitions. If you want good grades in school, be with people who get good grades.
Being with people who want the same things as you make difficult behaviors easier. It’s suddenly the new normal.
When training a dog, you give a reward after every successful behavior you want it to learn. You can use the same approach for yourself.
Let’s say that you want to build the habit of lifting weights. After every workout, you reward yourself with a protein shake or 10 min of stretching.
The reward doesn’t have to be something big. Any small enjoyable behavior that you can do straight after can help build the habit.
Remember, the reward shouldn’t undo the good work of the behavior. If your goal is to lose weight, you won’t get far by eating fast food to celebrate a successful workout.
Use a habit tracker
A habit tracker is a device that tracks the progress of any habit. It’s a simple yet powerful tool for sticking with healthy habits.
There’s no wrong way to create and use it as long as it tracks habits. Every time you do the intended behavior, mark a successful day completed. As you physically note a success, the feeling of the small win is more powerful than if you’d do it mentally. When the streak grows, the feeling of these wins becomes stronger, and the behavior will seem more rewarding.
As the streak grows, quitting a behavior seems more difficult. Motivation and confidence grow. Sticking with good habits is easier.
We often expect that anything worth doing will benefit us in no time. That it will be easy. Habits don’t work like that. We’re looking at weeks or months, sometimes even years, before we get to where we want to be. Focus on changing one or two habits at a time. Give them the time to stick before starting on something new.
Be patient, enjoy the process and accept setbacks and failures. While the process of change might seem unbearable long and boring, you’ll thank yourself for taking the time to do this when you’re where you want to be.
Related: What happens if you miss a day?
Good habits are automatic behaviors that positively impact your physical and mental health. They are the foundation of success and happiness.
All four stages in the habit loop have to be present to create a habit—cue, craving, routine, and reward.
There are many ways to create new healthy habits. Try the different strategies mentioned above. Equip yourself with one or two that you find useful. Use them to set the foundation for your personal development.
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