Updated: Nov 27, 2020
Many people have trouble building healthy habits because the process takes a long time, their goals are too great, and the reward is not realized. Those are all very understandable reasons to be unsuccessful. There has to be an easier way to build healthy habits.
Forming a new healthy habit isn't easy, but there are things you can do to make it easier and give yourself a better chance of succeeding. Here are 3 hacks to build healthy habits:
Start small and easy and do it for 21 days
Get buy-in from others
Make it visual
Let's dig into each hack to get a better perspective of what I mean.
1. Start small and easy and do it for 21 days
Many highly successful people believe that habits are formed by completing an activity for 21 days in a row. Unfortunately, the 21 day habit formation formula is a myth. The 21-day mantra was introduced in the 1950s and gained international attention in the decades that followed by numerous self-help and professional development guru's who repeated the myth.
According to Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London, on average it takes 66 days before a new behavior becomes automatic. Lally and her research team ran a study, and found it takes anywhere from 18 days to 254 days to build a new habit.
Don't be discouraged of 254 days. Lally and her team conducted the study on 96 people, each of whom were practicing various types of habits. How long it takes to build a new habit depends on behavior, circumstances, and the person.
WHOA! Right there in the study was the answer to determining how to succeed in building a new habit: focus on behavior and circumstance.
Our natural behavior is to do what is easy, pleasing, and rewarding. Naturally we stray from what is difficult, uncomfortable, and unfulfilling. On the subject of being healthy, many people aren't able to accomplish healthy habits because the activity is hard and the conditions don't allow for it.
Some common excuses I hear from people:
- running 5 miles is hard
- I don't have time to exercise
- cooking healthy doesn't taste good
All of these are legitimate excuses. Running 5 miles is hard, for someone that doesn't run. Exercising is time intensive, for someone with responsibilities like a job and family. Healthy cooking can taste bad, if it doesn't have flavor. But the key to accomplishing a goal; ie: building a healthy habit; is to start small and make it easy.
Let's go back to our examples. If you can't run 5 miles, start with 1 mile. If you don't have time to exercise, start with 5 minutes a day. Don't know how to make a delicious, healthy meal? Look up a recipe, and try making 1 healthy meal a week.
Humans are encouraged by a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. What if you were to run 1 mile a day, every day, for 21 days straight? Would you feel accomplished? What if you were to reward yourself with something you really wanted, but only if you ran 1 mile every day for 21 days straight? Could you run then? Of course. We chase goals because of the rewards and sense of accomplishment they bring us.
If you break down a healthy habit into a small task, it will be easy to accomplish, and you can build on it over time. The only way to get from Day 1 to Day 21 and beyond is to get to the next day. For examples of what a small, easy, healthy task would be, check out Top 5 Ways to Get Healthier Today.
21 days of doing something most likely won't create a habit in you. But it will be 21 steps in the right direction. And if you can do something for 21 days straight, there's a great chance you can do it for 21 more days, and 21 more days after that. And so on.
2. Get buy-in from others
If you were on a diet and a friend asked you if you wanted a chocolate covered donut, what would you say? I bet you would say, "I can't, I'm watching what I eat." What if your friend made it themselves, and said they would be very disappointed if you didn't try one. Would you eat a donut then? I bet you would, because you wouldn't want to disappoint your friend. And besides, it's only 1 donut.
Many people give into temptation too easily, like in the example above, and fall off the wagon when it comes to accomplishing their health goals. What seems like a minor stray off-track leads to similar instances of drifting, and before you know it, your goal of creating a healthy habit is a long lost memory.
So how do you keep yourself aligned with your health habits?
You get others to buy into your goals. When you tell people close to you about your goal to form healthy habits, you make yourself accountable to them. And you wouldn't want to disappoint those close to you by not succeeding, would you? Additionally, sharing your goals with with others builds a strong support group. Your friends and family will encourage you to be successful and become a better you through healthy habits.
But then again, going back to the donut example, how can you respond to your friend? You tell them, "I won't eat a donut because I made a commitment to myself to improve my eating habits. If I were to eat a donut now, it would break my habit and take away so much progress I've made in my personal health. I hope you can understand how much this means to me." Or something similar. The point is, when you are building healthy habits, it's not that you can't do something that will put you off course, it's that you won't.
Many people are driven by encouragement others give them, and are more satisfied when they can share their accomplishments with others. Knowing you have the support of your peers can help you focus on building a healthy habit, so share your goal with friends and family.
3. Make your healthy habit visual
I'm sure you've heard it before, that humans are visual learners. Well, according to studies, 65% of us are visual learners. What does that have to do with creating a healthy habit? Well, it means seeing our goal can help us meet our goal. Let me break it down.
We can use visual persuasion to motivate us to act. Visual persuasion is the use of graphics to amplify a message in order to motivate the receiver to act a certain way. What if you were to write down your goal of creating a healthy habit somewhere you would see it every day? It not only would remind you to do that one task, but most likely encourage you as well.
We can even track our progress somewhere we will see it every day. People take pride in creating streaks, and don't like to break them. We can even be motivated more by not breaking a streak than actually continuing one. A great way to track progress is to put a monthly calendar on a wall, and cross off every day that you complete the task. Every day you will see the streak of days crossed off and take pride in crossing off another day.
Seeing our goals and tracking our progress visually can help motivate and encourage us to build healthy habits.
Creating healthy habits isn't easy if you don't know how to start. Thankfully, there are things you can do to make it easier and give yourself a better chance of succeeding. After defining your goal and what the healthy habit is associated with your goal, there are 3 hacks to ensure you will be successful.
1. create a small, easy task and do it every day for 21 days straight
2. tell your friends and family about your commitment and ask for their support
3. write your task where you will see it everyday, and track your progress on a wall calendar
Follow these 3 hacks to build a healthy habit and you will be amazed with the results.
Want more tips on creating healthy habits? Check out all our articles here.
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