Creating Healthy Habits That Will Last: 8 Tips
Read Time: 10 minutes
So much can affect your health and quality of life. Fortunately, much of the weight rests on the shoulders of the quality of our daily habits. Establishing healthier ones may reduce your risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and stroke. But it's a bit more complicated than waving a magic wand and just being “healthy.” Building healthy habits can require planning and hard work—but it’s okay, you can do it! Keep on reading for a breakdown of tips on how to create healthy habits that are both attainable and will last.
What's Up With Habits, Anyway?
Simply put, habits are things we do naturally with very little thought behind them. They tend to feel pretty automatic and involve ordinary things we do—like brushing our teeth or having our coffee in the morning.
However, the repetitive habits that also make you feel good—like having a couple drinks at night or playing video games for a few hours after getting home—could also alter your brain chemistry in ways that make it hard to break bad habits, or create healthy new ones.¹
That's part of the reason why creating healthier habits can feel like such an uphill battle. People are creatures of habit—and even though we know healthier choices can help us feel better and live longer, sometimes things just don't stick.² Thankfully, behavioral scientists who study habits have found that many of us are going about it the wrong way.
Think about how quickly New Year's resolutions are broken—from wanting to lose weight, stop smoking, and eat healthier foods, to practicing better self-care. After a few weeks, the old habits tend to come back around and cause us to lose progress. But according to some evidence, we might be taking on more than we should at once—skipping the steps necessary to succeed.
It can feel frustrating to experience setbacks when striving for goals, knowing all we do impacts our physical well-being, mental health, and quality of life—now and in the future. However, we’re all human. Stay encouraged with some science-backed advice for building healthy living habits that will last.
8 Tips For Building Healthy Habits
When it comes to establishing healthy habits, there's a lot of ground to cover. The first three tips are mainly for getting your head in the game as you set out on your wellness journey—whereas the ones that follow provide some insight into where to begin, so you can see your goal through.
1. Know Your Habits and Make a Plan
Suppose you want to start changing some of your behaviors. According to Dr. Lisa Marsch, an expert in behavior change at Dartmouth College,you'll want to start looking into what it is you're doing regularly.³ If you catch yourself drinking to cope with a lot of stress—or eating too much junk food while you watch TV—you can look into those patterns and figure out what's causing them. Is it anxiety or depression? Maybe it's boredom, or it's just what your friends and family are doing. If you see these habits you want to change, you can start looking for little ways to alter them. For example, you could eat your meals without the TV on or take a hot bath and practice self-care instead of drinking a bottle of wine.
Once you determine the things you want to change, you can work on a plan that you can use to move towards your goals. Consider what you may need to be successful and what things might derail your plans in unexpected situations. You may also want to consider doing it with a friend or another loved one. Some evidence suggests that our behaviors mirror the people we spend time with—so inviting them to join you might help everyone feel better and more connected to one another.⁴
2. Be Patient and Stay On Track
Wanting to be better is one thing, but following through is another. There are going to be times where stressful situations and other problems spring up that might get in the way of your goals. Further, you may also be dealing with mental health issues like depression, ADHD, and anxiety that can make habit formation feel impossible.⁵ Take this time to be patient and kind to yourself. Things don't always go as planned—but there's nothing wrong with that! Just as long as you’re moving forward, you're still winning. If push comes to shove, you can always talk to a health professional to deal with any underlying problems affecting your ideal outcome.
You may also catch yourself wondering if you'll actually be able to stick to a plan. Keeping track of your intrusive thoughts and daily habits may help you stick with the program, as you’ll be able to refer to your own historical data to see just how far you've come. One study found that people who lost at least 30 pounds—and kept it off for a year—had tracked their progress constantly.⁶ Keeping a journal or a health app on your phone might help you improve your self-control. With that said, keep tracking. Even when you feel like you're failing, you're still moving forward—and that's all it takes!
3. Curb Instant Gratification
Another big issue with the idea of creating “healthy habits” is many of us have difficulty resisting impulses. Dr. Leonard Epstein, who studies behavior change and decision-making at University of Buffalo, found that people who discount or undervalue bigger picture rewards for the smaller, more immediate rewards tend to wrestle with binge eating, substance or alcohol abuse, or risky sexual behavior.⁷
But if you keep your eyes on the big picture and hone in on what your ideal future looks like, you may be able to overcome some of the impulsive thoughts and avoid acting on them. If you think in depth about all the positive experiences or rewards you'll reap when you finally achieve your goal, you'll feel better about yourself—breaking yourself from a vicious cycle of doing something counterintuitive, feeling guilty, and then doing it again because you feel guilty.
It also may help you to focus on how the changes will help your physical and mental health. For example, your heart attack risk drops within 24 hours after your last cigarette.⁸ Reducing stress may bring you closer to loved ones and improve your relationships.⁹ Hold on to the reasons you want to form healthy habits tightly!
4. Try CBD
After you've considered your goals, plans, and future, you may want to consider adding CBD products like CBD softgels or CBD edibles to the mix. While CBD won't magically make you ready to take on the world and form your healthy habits overnight, it may help with the habits you're trying to develop. For example, if your goal is to exercise more, you may appreciate CBD after a workout for muscle recovery.¹⁰ Feeling less sore the next day could make it easier to keep up with your exercise routine.
On the other hand, say you're used to drinking after a long stressful day and want to cut back on alcohol. CBD could have soothing, anti-anxiety effects that might help you better manage stress so you can break the drinking habit more easily.¹¹⁻¹² If you are trying to quit smoking, drinking too much coffee, or using other drugs, evidence suggests CBD may help.¹³
While CBD doesn't fix everything, research indicates it might help break a bad habit and work towards forming better ones. Though research is still being done to measure the relationship between CBD and mental health, CBD may have the potential to work with the endocannabinoid system to help keep your body, mood, immune system, appetite, and sleep-wake cycles function more optimally—which may help you reach your goals and feel better on your journey to a healthier, happier lifestyle.¹⁴
5. Start With Small Changes
Stanford University researcher and author of the book "Tiny Habits," B.J. Fogg, is a big believer that many people decide to make massive changes that require too much motivation for them to keep up with.¹⁵ In his book and research, he suggests starting small to make the healthy habits you want to form more attainable.¹⁶
He started by wanting to do more push-ups. So to get there, he began by tying it to something he was already doing—going to the bathroom. Every time he went to the bathroom, he'd drop down and do two push-ups until it became a habit.
In a similar effort, you could pack an apple in your lunch along with your other foods to promote healthier eating habits—or go for a short walk after dinner before forming an exercise habit. Big things start small. You don't have to make explosive progress from the get-go and possibly risk burning yourself out.
6. Make It Easier On Yourself
People are very sensitive to changes that could derail them from their habits. Wendy Wood, a research psychologist at the University of Southern California, found that an obstacle keeping her from getting up for a morning run was having to get out of bed and get dressed. She began to sleep in her running clothes.¹⁷ But if getting out of the house is still too much, you can always opt for something easier like doing sit ups, jumping jacks, or YouTube workouts from your home. Exercise is exercise at the end of the day, but you have to find something that works for you and your lifestyle.
Such obstacles are described more in depth in Dr. Wood's book, "Good Habits, Bad Habits: The Science of Making Positive Changes That Stick."¹⁸ We are highly sensitive to this "friction" that may push us to do the easy, more gratifying thing over the harder or less exciting one. With that in mind, find ways to help reduce the friction that prevents you from forming your healthy habits. It may be as simple as laying out your clothes for tomorrow, or packing your healthy lunches for the week all at the same time.
7. Pair New Habits With Old Ones
If you want to form new, healthier habits, experts suggest that it may be easiest to piggyback them onto your regular habits.¹⁹ If you repeat a lot of the same actions in your daily routine, think about a few ways that you could use those to mix in new, positive habits.
For example, if you're looking to practice more mindfulness for your mental health, you could take 60 uninterrupted seconds to meditate as your coffee brews. While you're in the bathroom brushing your teeth, you could practice a yoga pose to build your strength and flexibility. If you catch yourself on the couch watching TV all night, you could try doing something else relaxing or creative.
Pairing your old habits with your new ones may make it easier to make small changes that lead to larger ones!
8. Don't Forget To Reward Yourself
Habits are formed because we get some kind of reward for doing it—like having a cup of coffee in the morning that makes you feel more awake, or that clean-mouth feeling after brushing your teeth.²⁰ However, depending on what your healthy habits look like, you might not see a tangible difference or reward from the get-go. If you find a way to make what you're trying to achieve feel good and enjoyable, you'll have a much easier time sticking to it. For example, you could watch your favorite show as you run on the treadmill to reinforce an exercise habit and make the time more enjoyable. If your goal is to cut back on drinking or smoking, you can set aside the money you would have spent on alcohol or cigarettes and treat yourself to something fun instead.
Overall, there are many ways to create healthy habits that last. By “hacking” the way your brain works and understanding why we make some of our choices, it becomes easier to navigate and push through to your goals. If you’re curious about the psychological effects of CBD or how different products like CBD topicals can help you develop healthy habits throughout your day, we have the resources for you. At Lazarus Naturals, we believe in helping you find what feels good at each step in your wellness journey. Forming healthy habits may feel like a mountain to climb, but the view at the top is worth all the effort.