Take those positive routines you forged over the past year and keep them going as you move forward.
Posted in , Jun 22, 2021
Some changes—including positive ones—came into our lives by necessity during the pandemic. Maybe we had more time to take walks outside. To practice yoga. Maybe we cooked at home more and ate healthier meals since dining out was problematic. And as we emerge vaccinated and ready to re-engage with our regular lives, it’s worth taking a moment to remember what psychology and brain science tell us about what makes a healthy habit stick around for the long haul.
1) Set a Clear Goal
Notice the difference between these two goals: “Eat healthier foods” and “Eat fresh fruit or vegetables with every meal.” The latter is more specific, so it’s more measurable and therefore more likely to stick. Success breeds more success. When you can notice yourself taking concrete steps toward a clear goal, you’re more likely to persevere as the habit-setting days go on.
2) Take the Time You Need
The classic refrain is that it takes 21 days of consecutive practice to establish a new habit. But researchers have found that the actual time requirement varies, depending on the habit itself. Incorporating an addition to an existing practice—like drinking a glass of water with breakfast each day—might take hold more quickly than, for example, doing 10 push-ups as part of your morning routine. As you sustain and develop more good habits, keep this in mind.
3) Let Your Brain Automate
Getting into the car, we all automatically reach for our seatbelts. This isn’t an instinctual behavior, it’s a habit—one that’s so ingrained in our brains that it doesn’t require reminders, cues or training. Think about how you can automate your healthy habits as much as possible. Doing healthy actions in a consistent sequence or at a consistent time of day can help with this, like cleaning the dinner dishes right after you eat so you don’t have to drag yourself off the couch later.
4) Reward Yourself
Human beings love rewards. To make healthy habits stick, we crave recognition, pride and other intrinsic rewards that keep us on the right path. You can make your reward as concrete as you’d like—from a private progress chart to public accountability in social media posts to a self-care practice you look forward to as you persevere through the hard work of locking new, healthy habits into place. That might be a warm soak in the tub after a workout or a quiet cup of tea after a day of busyness.
What healthy habits are you working to hold onto?