How to Cultivate Positive Habits That Last

Changing a pattern in your life means it has to work for you. Here are some tips to do just that. 

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Posted in , Mar 18, 2020

Creating a new, healthy habit

What is the best healthy eating plan? How about the most effective fitness routine? Or the self-care schedule that will keep you calm and happy?

The answer to all three of these questions is the same—the “best” positive habits are the ones you are able to practice consistently. In other words, good habits that last must be sustainable in the life you are actually leading, here and now.

That doesn’t mean you should think small when it comes to putting positive habits in place. But it does mean using strategies that will help you discern which goals to pursue—and how—in ways that are built to last.

Here are a few tips for building long-lasting habits: 

1. Try Before You Buy

Before you buy into a new routine or regimen, that is. Recently, a friend was sharing how helpful she had found “intermittent fasting,” an eating pattern that builds periods of fasting into a daily meal schedule. I was intrigued, hearing her reports of heightened energy and less mindless snacking. 

But after a couple of days that included a skipped breakfast and a long, munch-free afternoon, I realized this wasn’t a good fit for me. Taking advice from trusted friends, family members or experts is a great idea—but the ultimate decision about what positive habits will be sustainable for you belongs to you alone.

2. Give It a Chance
Sometimes, the habits you are most motivated to embrace are harder to sustain than you thought. Research shows that it can take an average of 66 days—2 months—for a habit to become ingrained enough to feel routine. Set realistic expectations that a sustainable positive habit might have some “start-up costs" and prepare yourself for an extra investments of time and energy at first.

3. Make One Change at a Time
Good, solid science studies one variable at a time. A research study that examined, for example, indoor air quality in a home, would not be helpful or conclusive if the homeowners installed new air filters into their HVAC system, spent more time with the windows open and started a new daily vacuum routine all at once. If their outcomes improved, who could say which of those changes made the difference? Similarly, when you are looking to make change in your life, focus on one positive habit at a time so you know which habits are improving your quality of life. 

4. Reward Yourself
For some, the satisfaction of doing something positive for yourself is an intrinsic reward. But some of us need to be intentional about the reward for our positive habits. One study even suggested that a small piece of dark chocolate consumed after a workout can boost the feel-good neurotransmitters that come from the fitness activity itself.  Another idea is to get a time-based coffee maker so you are rewarded with a freshly brewed pot of coffee when you wake up on time. Think of ways to reinforce your new positive habits as they take hold in your life.

How do you integrate new habits into your life? Share in the comments below!

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