Making healthy habits stick is hard work. We struggle with it personally and, as Sanvello mental health coaches, we see clients every day that are trying to trade out their not-so-healthy behaviors for better ones.
When it comes to making lasting changes, we often experience a burst of motivation and want to take on everything at once, expecting to see results overnight. We may be able to stick to a new habit, like getting out in nature every morning, for a few days or even a few weeks, but soon we often find ourselves reverting back to our old ways. Sound familiar?
It’s much easier to stick with those not-so-great habits, like scrolling social media for hours at night or eating loads of sugary treats, because they usually involve an immediate reward. If you want healthier habits (like meditation, exercise, or journaling) to become a regular part of your routine, it helps to make a game plan.
Here are our top tips for finally making your new good-for-you habits finally stick.
Top tips for making those habits stick
- Take baby steps. If your ultimate goal is to run a marathon, you wouldn’t start out by going on a 26 mile jog. Nope, you’d begin with short distances and build up your endurance over a long stretch of time. So, try breaking your new desired behavior into small steps. Take five minutes each week to reflect on where you’re at with your wellness goals and how that level of work is currently feeling to you. Are you ready to take on more? Do you need to take things down a notch for the week ahead? It’s all about taking small, realistic steps that will set you up for success. Try using the Goals Tool in the Sanvello app to help you to take manageable steps each day that will lead you to exactly where you want to go.
- Understand your why. Habit reflection can help you to uncover your true motivation to start a new habit. Do you want to feel less anxious? Or work through aches and pains by moving your body each day? Digging into the why of what prompted you to take action can help you to commit to new behaviors each day. This is a good one to take to your journal, coach, or therapist.
- Give the trial and learn mindset a go. It can be tempting to give up when trying hard things, especially when the imposter syndrome starts getting loud. But if you try things out, whether they work or not, you get the opportunity to learn more about yourself and what you need to effectively achieve your goals.
- Link new habits. Think of one healthy habit that you have and how you can link a new habit to it. For instance, if you love having a cozy cup of tea before bed, try incorporating a short journaling practice into this time. By linking a habit to something you already enjoy, you’re cuing your brain to start incorporating the new habit into your already established routine. A great place to start is by making a list of all the actions you automatically take during the day and find something to anchor your new behavior to.
- Set a reminder. We love a virtual nudge to help me take action. You can use the calendar notification or alarm setting on your phone as a reminder to stop what you’re doing and take a few minutes to focus on yourself. If you’re looking to take a walk once a day, try setting a calendar block on your work computer to remind you to prioritize your new behavior. If you’re really crunched for time, you can try to make time for your habit once a week or even once a month. Remember to be realistic and lean on technology to help you commit.
- We’re here for progress, not perfection. Our brains naturally focus on what’s still not working or what we feel needs to be fixed, making it easy to forget all of our big and small steps of progress along the way. Even a small win is a win. Try to think about ways to celebrate yourself each time you achieve a goal and be gentle on yourself when you don’t quite get there. No one here is doing it perfectly, we promise.
When taking on a new habit, it can be helpful to be your own best hype-person by reflecting on accomplishments from your past. Building on the strengths that have gotten you this far will help you to recognize your abilities and resiliency.
If you’re up for it, go ahead and name a habit that you’d like to incorporate into your life and do some digging into why you want to make this change. Take all the time you need to get clarity on small steps you can take to make this new behavior last. It’s not easy to retrain our brains, and there will be days when you’re thrown off track, but you’ve done hard things before. Some habits will form quickly and others will take more time, so go at your own pace. We’ll be here, cheering you on along the way.
By Carrie Gregory, Mental Health Coach
Carrie believes in a holistic approach to health and wellbeing. She is passionate about inspiring others to unlock their own potential and live happier, healthier lives. As a Sanvello Coach, she works with clients to discover and leverage strengths, values, and past successes to help them with today’s challenges. When she’s not seeing clients, Carrie is a military wife, a mother to one fabulous kiddo, and enjoys living a life filled with creativity and adventure.
By Natalie Septer, Mental Health Coach
As a Sanvello Coach, Natalie is passionate about supporting people as they navigate life — in the good times and the bad. Her role is to help enhance self-awareness and equip clients with the tools necessary to live their best life. When she’s not seeing clients, Natalie is a yoga instructor, a podcast aficionado, and a mom to three boys. For self-care, she loves to read, journal, and exercise.