Have you ever felt excitement when you adopted a new healthy habit? Part of that excitement comes from your brain loving and responding to newness, especially new healthy habits. After all, if your brain isn’t on board with your new habit enthusiasm, nothing changes, does it? Healthy habits increase the quality of your life and promote longevity. But you know what happens next, right? The glow wears off as the weeks and months pass. So what’s the solution to keeping those healthy habits on track?
There are tips that boost your chances of staying on track!
How to Create Healthy Habits That Stick
1. Get Ready!
Start with the right reason. Make sure you’re adopting these brain healthy habits for yourself, because you want to and not because someone else is pressuring you.
Be specific about your target behavior. Write three-month goals (where you want to be with your habit) and weekly behavioral goals (what you need to do to get there).
Assemble your posse. Invite one or more people to encourage you as you work on your new habit. Be specific; if you prefer text check-ins or more public shout-outs, say so.
Grease the skids. Aiming to increase vegetable servings? Stock your fridge, freezer and cupboards with appealing options. Starting a morning exercise routine? Set your playlist and alarm, put your clothes and shoes out the night before and get to bed a little earlier.
Book it. Schedule action items related to your new behavior—along with time to actually practice it—and alerts.
2. Take Action
Don’t feel completely comfortable with your new habit right away. No one does. Comfort comes with time. The important thing is to get started, as action creates more action.
Track it. Keep your system simple; a star on your calendar or checking a box on an app will work. Personalize your tracking system so it works for you. You will make progress!
“Intensity makes a good story. Consistency makes progress.”
Keep a positive mindset. A positive mindset is important for brain health and habit change. You’re not going to love eating more vegetables, meditating or strength training every time. Do your best to stay focused on what’s going well and how your new habit makes you feel. Are you more alert, happier or calmer, brain feel more focused when you do your new habit?
3. Stick With It
Be flexible. Did you get pulled into a meeting and can’t go for your walk? Were you up all night with a sick pet and have no energy to put together a salad? Life happens.
With a flexible mindset, you acknowledge the circumstance and pivot to plan B—or try again tomorrow. Habit-building isn’t an all-or-nothing process; it’s more like a series of experiments. Sometimes you need to adjust your plans and expectations to keep moving forward.
Get curious. Miss a day? Be kind and nonjudgmental with this approach: “I wonder why that happened. What could I do differently next time?” Everyone stumbles; shake it off and learn from it.
Keep things fresh and interesting. Your brain loves fresh and interesting. An atmosphere of growth created by these brain healthy habits leads to happiness and health. Regularly infuse your habit with new elements, such as trying a new workout, different equipment or a change of locations, experimenting with new recipes or cooking techniques, or practicing new breathing techniques.
Make it social. Combine your habit with friendly fun. Host a whole-food, plant-based potluck, train with a friend for a 5K or take a dance class with your partner. Integrating healthy habits with your social life makes them easier to maintain and more fun, too!
“When building habits, choose consistency over content. The best book is the one you can’t put down. Best exercise is the one you enjoy doing every day. The best health food is the one you find tasty. The best work is the work you’d do for free.”
Be patient with yourself throughout the process of building new brain healthy habits and turning them into routines.
Long term results for brain health and any type of habit change require both consistency and patience. We all know what it feels like to run out of patience before we get the results we want to see. If you find yourself impatient and wanting to give up, focus on consistency because you will make progress. Doing something consistently is more important that going hard and intense but infrequently or stopping and starting.
If you feel stuck and need additional support to adopt a new healthy habit or routine, consider working with me. We can partner up in setting goals, drawing on your skills and strengths, and implementing strategies to help you find your way to lasting healthy success.
For over 15 years, Shelli has been a freelance writer and wellness coach on Joyinmovement. She writes about brain fitness, creating a healthy lifestyle, traveling the world, and making positive habits stick. Stop procrastinating! Take action, join her free newsletter.