Here’s how to start building a better routine

Our days are made up of hundreds of habits, big and small, that affect our overall health and well-being. fact, studies It turns out that nearly 40% of our daily activities are repeated every day. Many of us can get busy setting lofty goals for the future, but it’s our rituals and repetitive behaviors that quickly add up to lay the foundation for success in all aspects of life.

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Breaking bad habits and building on healthy ones involves making small daily decisions for personal growth. What’s more, it involves raising our standards for ourselves and upholding those standards through change and genuine positive action. Research has shown Consistent healthy habits can promote longevity and reduce the risk of many chronic diseases.

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Healthy habits aren’t just about weight management – in fact, the best healthy habits aim to help us feel our best from the inside out and promote a long, happy life. In this eight-week program, we’ll tackle a new habit each week and talk about building a foundation for success when it comes to your personal health and wellness. Each week has a distinct theme that will focus on mastering that particular healthy habit, with tips on stacking habits (more on that later) and staying consistent with those habits for the long term. We will create a new habit every week to help you gradually create a sustainable healthy living routine. We’ll incorporate meal and recipe suggestions, tips for prioritizing sleep and hydration and for staying motivated to keep your health a top priority – plus weight management advice for those interested.

Before diving into the plan put together by our team of health and nutrition experts, it’s important to understand how habits work. Knowing more about the inner workings of habits can help facilitate positive change and help break some of the bad habits that aren’t supportive of your overall health and wellness.

What are the habits?

“Habits are learned behaviors that are repeated when paired with a specific contextual cue,” says licensed clinical psychologist Laura Athey Lloyd, Psy.D. , owner Psychological services in New York. “Some habits are so automatic that we barely realize it, like wearing a seat belt when we sit in the car. Other habits are more complex and take longer, like preparing meals or writing a diary.”

Dr. Athey-Lloyd adds that a habit is formed and maintained through a cycle of antecedents (also known as cues or triggers) and reinforcements. “Positive reinforcement can take the form of a feeling (such as pride), a physiological response (such as energy) or a social response (such as compliments).” Think for a moment about the reinforcements that are happening in your life to support your habits, good or bad.

Not all habits are perfect, and Dr. Athey Lloyd adds that bad habits are also maintained through reinforcement. An example of this is how nail biting may temporarily relieve a person from anxiety. “The key word here is temporary, because the reinforcement gained by a bad habit is often short-lived, quickly followed by shame for engaging in the habit to which we assign a negative value.” She adds that the reason it’s so hard to break bad habits is because that shame can come back to engaging in the habit again.

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How can we change our habits?

Bad or negative habits include excessive drinking, overeating, smoking, sedentary lifestyles, and more. It can seem very difficult to break many bad habits, especially those that we have been doing for a long period of time. But just like positive habits, many negative habits are learned over time — and the good news is that they can be replaced with something positive. It is possible to form and maintain new healthy habits, but it certainly takes hard work and determination.

“It can take about two months for a new habit to become truly routine — a 2009 study published in European Journal of Social Psychology It found that habits take an average of 66 days to form,” explains Dr. Athey-Lloyd. “Organised people may acquire habits faster than others, and more complex habits take longer to build than simpler ones.”

When it comes to changing our habits, Dr. Athey Lloyd stresses the importance of setting a start date. “Setting a start date can be helpful, both in organizing when to start a habit, and to allow time to say goodbye to existing habits that we might be replacing,” she says. It is important to remember that these changes will not happen overnight and realistic but not impossible timelines are crucial.

In order to pursue your new healthy habits, Dr. Athey-Lloyd recommends following the Four Laws of Behavior Change, suggested by James Clear, author of Atomic habits.

Make your new habit:

  • common sense
  • attractive
  • easy
  • Satisfying

“For example, if you like to run more, put your running clothes where visible (obvious), choose a route or destination you enjoy (attractive), start with a mile (easy), and reward yourself after that (satisfactory).” Concrete examples of these four laws of behavior change each week in relation to the habit we are dealing with.

How do I stick to a healthy habit?

Some new healthy habits may seem daunting, but Dr. Athey Lloyd says it’s important to break down big goals into achievable short-term goals. “When clients come to me with their New Year’s resolutions, I encourage them instead to make a resolution in January (and later on a February resolution, etc.). Then we get to know and reach out to an Accountability Buddy (therapists count too!) to actively check in and reinforce the habit.” “.

Habit stacking can also help, which involves stacking your new behavior on top of the current habit you do each day. “Pairing the new habit at the same time of day as the current routine can help as a daily reminder,” adds Dr. Athey-Lloyd. “Use a calendar or habit-tracking app to appreciate your hard work, and challenge yourself to keep the streak going.”

Now that you know all about how habits work and form (and break them!), let’s dive into week one of this eight-week program. Each week we will explain to you why this habit is important to help provide some incentive to initiate and maintain change. We will provide instructions on how to do this and tips for sticking to it as well.

Woman holding a water bottle

Get hydrated
Low profile view of women's sneakers walking on the sidewalk

Enjoy walking
Meal prep containers above view

Start preparing the meal
Green salad coated with a white bowl

Eat more plants
Alarm clock with closed eyes drawn under the bed sheet

Prioritize sleep
Pile on the rocks on the sand

Set aside time for meditation and stress management
Black woman in orange cut-out workout clothes

Mindful eating
Colorful arrows on a green and blue background

Stay motivated

Greetings to you and putting your health first! And don’t forget to send a friend GH + club subscription link And a message saying, “Let’s do it together!”

Headshot by Stephanie Sassos, MS, RDN, CSO, CDN, NASM-CPT

Deputy Director of the Nutrition Laboratory

Stephanie (he/she) is a Registered Dietitian, NASM-Certified Personal Trainer, and Deputy Director of the Nutrition Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute, where she handles all nutrition-related content, testing, and evaluation. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Science from Penn State University and a Master’s degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. she too Good housekeeping Fitness and aerobics expert on staff. Stefani is dedicated to providing readers with evidence-based content to encourage informed dietary choices and healthy living. She is a passionate CrossFitter and a passionate home cook who loves spending time with her suitable Greek family.

Headshot by Amy Fischer MS, RD, CDN

Contributing writer

Amy (he/she) is a Registered Dietitian with the Nutrition Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute, covering nutrition and health-related content and product testing. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Miami University in Ohio and a master’s degree in clinical nutrition from New York University. Before that Good housekeeping, worked at one of the largest teaching hospitals in New York City as a heart transplant dietitian. She has authored numerous chapters in clinical nutrition books and has also worked in public relations and marketing for food startups.

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