How to Create New “Healthy” Habits that Stick!

Dr. Tanya Hudson
Creating healthy habits
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Starting a new “healthy” habit can feel daunting. You might think there is no extra time in the day or just feel overwhelmed with change. In this article, I am going to give you some simple strategies for creating a new habit to promote health. While the world must pivot and adapt, so must we in our own health journey.

So how do you create a new habit?

Idea #1: Start small and simple.

First off, you want to start small. Set realistic goals. Always remember that any step in the right direction, even if a baby step, is STILL movement going forward. Applaud yourself for just being ready to take charge of your health.

For example, maybe you want to start exercising consistently. Instead of signing up for an hour long virtual cardio class with weights, maybe just commit to a daily 10 minute walk. And congratulate yourself when you accomplish this! Give yourself a “oh-yah!.” 😊

Idea #2: Congratulate yourself!

Reading BJ Fogg’s book, Tiny Habits, I learned that habits are formed when there is emotion connected to them. When a habit is successful, that new habit is wired into the brain. So cool! So reward yourself and feel good about that 10 minute walk, that short meditation, that beautiful green salad, or that extra hour of sleep.

Let go of perfection (I get this-I was born a perfectionist!) and allow your health journey to move at a realistic pace. Change does not happen overnight. But change grows with time and builds upon itself, leading to lifelong health and vitality.

Idea #3: Connect this habit to something that is ALREADY a habit.

What do you already do in your day to day? For example, brushing your teeth, making your coffee, watching a nightly show, or setting your alarm for 7 am. Each morning, after my alarm goes off, I walk into the office, do 10 minutes of stretching, and then a 30-minute workout. I linked my 7 am alarm going off “habit”, with a new habit (stretching and exercising).

Many of my patients integrate a daily meditation after brushing their teeth in the evening. James Clear, in his book Atomic Habits, discusses “habit stacking” and states the following: “the reason habit stacking works so well is that your current habits are already built into your brain. You have patterns and behaviors that have been strengthened over years.

By linking your new habits to a cycle that is already built into your brain, you make it more likely that you’ll stick to the new behavior.” (Book excerpt).

He also talks about creating a statement with “after/before X, I will ……” For example, “after I get home from work, I will drink a large glass of water.” A simple way to create a new healthy habit!

Idea #4: Have an accountability partner.

This is huge and highly effective. We are more successful in creating positive change when we partner with a friend, relative, spouse, neighbor, etc. Perhaps your goal is planning dinners for the week. Call a friend and suggest you partner up! Share recipes and make it fun!

Or maybe your goal is to replace that nightly glass of wine with sparkling water. See if your friend wants to meet outside at 7 pm for a sparkly beverage instead of wine. Motivate each other! Creating a tribe of support if vital, especially right now. We are often more efficient and successful when we work together.

Idea #5: Be kind to yourself.

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We are not perfect. There are tired days, sad days, anxious days, and just “blah” days. Give yourself a break and know that tomorrow is a new day. One day, heck even 1 week, of being “off” your habits does not ruin progress. I’ve never seen this in 15 years of practice. Let it go and get back on the wagon. Believe in you and believe in change. It will happen. You are on a journey, traveling towards that ultimate place of health, vitality, joy, peace, and love, one baby step at a time. 😊

What “healthy habits” will you work towards (and remember, make these goals realistic and set your own pace)? Here are some ideas:

Daily movement.

Staying hydrated (aim for 1/3 of your body weight in ounces a day).

Daily meditation or grounding exercise (even 1 minute makes a difference).

Aim for 8 hours of sleep a night (and stick to a regular bed time and wake time).

Grab fruit instead of sweets.

Replace that glass of wine each night with some sparkly water and lemon.

You can do it! I’m cheering you on!