Regardless of how different some people might seem to be from one another, one thing is practically always guaranteed – everyone has their own habits that they’ve created over the course of their lives, whether or not they realize that they have done so. It’s typical for us to assign qualities to these habits and see them as inherently good or bad, and sometimes this may be the case. We all have habits that we see as good or bad, whether that is smoking, exercising, staying up too late at night, or ensuring that we drink enough water each day. Most of us probably have at least one habit we know is not conducive to our ideal lifestyle, but we continue to engage in it anyways and have not really committed the time and effort necessary to altering whatever the habit may be.
Habits can also have a direct link to our mental health, so if your state of mental wellbeing is a concern of yours, it might be beneficial to reflect on habits that you do have and consider whether they might be playing a role in how you feel internally. If you are intrigued about how you can build some better habits for yourself, we are going to let you in on five simple ways that you can build good habits that are much more likely to stick.
A sure-fire way to become overwhelmed and lose momentum with any good habits you are trying to form is to take on too much at once. It can easily become discouraging if you expect to see complete change overnight, which is why it’s so important to begin with small steps when you are integrating new, healthy habits into your life. Research has shown that it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to form a new habit, depending on what it is and how committed you are to forming it. Start small and work your way up with your habit, especially if it’s something along the lines of wanting to work out regularly. If you go all in right away and tire yourself out too much, you are way more likely to burn yourself out and become discouraged if you don’t see results right away or if you weren’t able to complete the full workout due to exhaustion.
A simple way to ensure you are being persistent with your good habits is to come up with some sort of reward system that will motivate you as much as possible to stick with them. This can be tailored to each unique person and their interests, but the reward needs to be something that will promote the new habit that you are trying to form and not take away or inhibit the progress. If you’re trying to cut out cigarettes, for example, going out and drinking or engaging in behavior that might trigger a response to your old habit is probably not the best idea. Treating yourself to your favorite meal or dessert, allowing yourself to watch an extra episode of your favorite show, or anything else that will motivate you to stick to the new habit you’re trying to form is the way to go. It’s also important to remember to celebrate any small wins, such as successfully going a full day or week incorporating your new habit into your routine.
Habits are so much easier to maintain when they are incorporated into a routine that will feel effortless to follow. For example, if you are trying to build a better habit of eating a healthy breakfast in the morning before you go to work, create a routine that fully supports this habit that will feel natural. One way to go about this could be to set an alarm to wake up 20 minutes earlier than usual and work your morning around sitting down and eating breakfast before you go on your way. You’re more likely to remember to work your new habit into your day if you have a structured routine planned out – especially at first while you’re still getting used to it.
If you are determined and committed to building more beneficial habits into your life, it’s important to recognize that there will be hurdles ahead and times that are less than ideal for supporting your desire to build a new habit. Things come up out of the blue as well as unforeseen circumstances, but that is just a part of life. It’s also crucial to be aware of what triggers might cause you to falter on your path of building the new habit and either steer clear of these or face them with awareness and your intention in the forefront of your mind. This will certainly become easier as time progresses, and it’s important to remember that it’s okay if you trip up or “fail” once in a while, and that this does not negate all the hard work that you have put in.
After some time, it’s a good idea to stop and check in with the intention that you set when you began your journey of integrating your new habit. This can help you grasp if you’re still going in the direction that you want to, and you can change your course of action however you see fit if you realize you need to do so after taking this step back. Maybe some things are getting in your way that you didn’t foresee or maybe the plan or routine you set in place needs some modifications. Regardless, it’s always a great idea to check in with yourself from time to time and reflect on where your intentions and headspace are at – this will surely help you stay on track with your habits and will allow to stay even more in tune with yourself.
It might seem daunting at first when you are attempting to work better habits into your lifestyle, but the most difficult part is often taking the initial step and beginning the process once and for all. The fact that you have become aware of changes that you’d like to make and are considering working towards making those changes is a phenomenal thing that deserves its own recognition. Creating healthier habits for yourself is a fantastic way to improve your mental health, and when you look back after some time you will be so glad that you began the journey when you did.
Dr. Messina & Associates has a caring and compassionate team of psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists that specialize in anxiety and depression in children, adolescents, and adults. In Person appointments are available in our DFW (Southlake) offices. Online appointments are available to patients in the Austin, DFW, Houston, and San Antonio areas.