6 tricks to help healthy habits stick

Small habits can lead to big changes. Read our top tips on how to make healthy habits stick.

It’s a new year, which means a fresh start. We’re starting 2023 with a blank slate and we can do anything. But what makes this year different to every other? These tricks – that’s what.  

We’ve all been there, trying to create new healthy habits and getting to the end of January and having nothing to show for it. So, how do you make a healthy habit stick? 

1. Accept that failure is essential to success 

Let’s face it, failure is likely to happen, but it’s also essential to success [1]. Life won’t always be smooth sailing and it will throw curveballs at you. You may get two weeks into running and come down with the flu, which sends you back to the beginning of your training plan. You may injure your wrist and not be able to write in your journal every day – whatever the failure is, the key is acceptance.  

Acceptance isn’t always easy and can require quite a bit of effort at times. But the acceptance of failure can be eye-opening, and sometimes even life-changing. Once you’ve accepted that failure can happen, no matter how hard you try, if you fail, you are more likely to try again. And again. And again – until you’ve mastered your goal.  

So, if you want to make a healthy habit stick, you’d better prepare yourself for the fact that you are most likely going to fail a few times before it truly does stick – and that’s okay.  

The sooner you realise that failure is (and always will be) a part of life, the sooner you can get back in the saddle. And if you fail again, you try again.

2. Find your passion and purpose  

Your habits are less likely to stick if they are ones that you are not passionate about or don’t align with your purpose. Passion and purpose can both be key drivers of motivation that can also be mutually independent. 

For example, if you really detest eating salad, don’t force yourself to eat a salad every day. If your reason behind this goal is to eat more healthily, maybe make a habit of eating an apple a day (to keep the doctor away) instead.  

You’re reading this article which means there’s already a desire, however small, to create healthy habits — you’ve taken the first step. But you can make your life easier by adapting your goals to include things that you enjoy in life. If your new healthy habit is to wake up and go for a walk, find something you’re passionate about to motivate you to get out of the house, like listening to music or your favourite podcast.  

Make sure the habits you choose are ones that you feel passionate about and fulfil your purpose.

3. Don’t overload yourself 

When creating new habits, it’s important that you don’t come up with too many at once. Sticking with one or two and building on these throughout the year might be best, as creating more than this leaves more room for failure. You want to be focusing on quality, not quantity.  

Also, start small. Don’t decide on two huge, life-changing habits to tackle at the same time. If you start with one small habit, such as drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning (instead of your usual coffee), and manage to make it stick, then you can build up to bigger things. The difficulty level is based on the individual though – some people may find it easier to get out for a daily walk than drink eight glasses of water a day.  

Overloading yourself can also lead to overtraining if your goals are exercise based. There is no use trying to run a 5K if you’ve never run further than the end of your road before – you’ll only either injure or demotivate yourself.  

Start with small habits – focus on quality and not quantity to reduce the chances of failure and help your habits stick.

4. Give it a month (or two)   

Traditionally, it’s said that it takes 21 days to form a habit, but more recently, some research has shown that it takes, on average, more than two months before a new behaviour becomes automatic. It can actually take anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for people to form a new habit [2].  

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This may sound daunting, but you can rest easy. This range of time allows for people who have tried to make a habit stick to make mistakes along the way and learn from them. 

So, pick your healthy habit and roll with it. If you do it for two months consecutively, the likelihood is that your habit should start to feel automatic.  

Habits can take anywhere from 18 days to 254 days to form, so roll with it and (on average) by day 66, the habit should be starting to feel automatic.

5. Know your excuses 

We all have our excuses, whether it be that we don’t like running in the dark, or we don’t have time (but can spend three hours scrolling social media). If you are honest with yourself, you’ll know your excuses. Being self-aware and mindful of your excuses means you can consider whether they are honest excuses or excuses that you can overcome.  

For example, let’s say you’ve decided the healthy habit you want to form is taking time to meditate to reduce stress. You decide in the morning you don’t want to get out of bed ten minutes earlier to meditate (and that’s fine), but then you get to 11am and you decide that you no longer have time for meditation or mindfulness today – is this an honest excuse or is it an excuse you can overcome? Could you spare ten minutes of your lunch break or later in the evening? Challenging your excuses can make all the difference in helping to make a habit stick.  

Is your excuse an honest excuse or one you can overcome? Challenge your excuses and increase your likelihood of forming your chosen healthy habit.

6. Keep track  

Monitoring your habits and how far you’ve come is great motivation for you to continue forming them. You can monitor your habits in different ways — some examples include: 

  • Your weight  
  • Personal bests 
  • Distance ran/walked  
  • Number of steps completed  
  • The impact on your inner health — for example, your blood pressure or cholesterol levels 
  • Your mood — rate your mood out of ten every day and record it in a diary 

Forming habits takes time and some days will be harder than others; these are the days when you can look back to where you started and see the improvement you’ve made – reminding yourself of why you’ve done it and how you could further improve your life if you continue.  

Monitoring your habits through tracking positive changes in your life can help to motivate you on the tough days.

How blood testing can help you form healthy habits 

A great way to monitor the impact your healthy habits have made on your inner health is through blood testing. With our blood tests, you can track your results over time with our tracker function, meaning you could take a test before setting your healthy habit and repeat it after a few months to see how much your health has improved.  

We have a comprehensive range of Wellness Blood Tests that can help monitor your progress. You can read more about these different tests in our Health and Wellness Buying Guide. Or, you could answer a few questions in our test finder to help you find the right test for you.  


References 

  1.  Arruda, W. (2022) Why failure is essential to successForbes. Forbes Magazine. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/williamarruda/2015/05/14/why-failure-is-essential-to-success/?sh=590fa0f07923 (Accessed: December 29, 2022).  
  2. Lally, P. et al. (2009) “How are habits formed: Modelling Habit Formation in the real world,” European Journal of Social Psychology, 40(6), pp. 998–1009. (Accessed: December 29, 2022). 

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