6 Ways to Create Lasting Healthy Habits

Healthy Habits© yuriz / Getty Images / Canva

With the American Heart Association’s Healthy for Good Habit Coach, it is easier than ever to build lasting healthy habits. This program offers six strategies for building habits that stick, including working with Brain Loops, utilizing rewards, and dispelling common habit-building myths. All of these strategies help to create a successful and realistic approach to creating more healthful habits.

“The current guidelines for managing high blood pressure and cholesterol recognize that otherwise healthy individuals with mildly or moderately elevated levels of these cardiovascular risk factors should actively attempt to reduce these risks, and increasing physical activity is a great place to start,” said Bethany Barone Gibbs, Ph.D., chair of the statement writing group and chair of the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at West Virginia University School of Public Health.

Let’s explore how the Habit Coach works and what makes it so effective.

1. Debunking Common Habit-Building Myths

Building healthy habits can be intimidating, especially when we’re surrounded by myths and misinformation. It’s much harder to get started on anything if we don’t have the right information to guide us. Let’s take a look at some of the more common myths about habit building and why they are not true.

Myth #1: Healthy Habits Require Deprivation or Sacrifice

One of the most pervasive myths about building healthy habits is that it requires deprivation or sacrifice, i.e., you must suffer in order to make any progress. This couldn’t be further from the truth! With the right approach, making healthier choices can be an incredibly positive experience. You can still enjoy your favorite foods—just in moderation and with better quality ingredients. Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore; it can be something fun that you look forward to each day. Your mindset is key here; focus on how great you will feel once your new habits become part of your life!

Myth #2: Big Results Require Big Changes

Another common myth is that big results require big changes—but this isn’t true either! Small changes can have a huge impact over time if they are done consistently and correctly. For example, instead of committing to working out every single day, start by exercising just two days per week for 10 minutes each day—even this small change will give you lasting results over time if you stick with it! The same goes for diet—make small tweaks like eating one less snack per day or adding more vegetables into your meals and watch as these changes add up quickly over time.

It’s important to recognize that common habit-building myths shouldn’t stop us from achieving our goals! Making healthier choices doesn’t mean deprivation or sacrifice—in fact, it should be quite the opposite! And while large changes do require effort, smaller changes are often enough to get us where we want to go if we make them consistently and correctly. So don’t let these myths hold you back—you can do it! With the right approach, building healthier habits can become an enjoyable part of your everyday life.

2. Working with Brain Loops to Form New Habits

We’ve all experienced the feeling of wanting to form new healthy habits, yet struggling to make them stick. The struggle is often rooted in our own thought patterns and the way we view ourselves; we tend to create myths around why it’s difficult for us to change and this holds us back from actually achieving our goals. In order to tackle these thought patterns and move forward, it’s important for us to understand how Brain Loops work and how we can use them to our advantage.

What are Brain Loops?

Brain Loops are patterns of thought that often lead us into unproductive behaviors. They can be triggered by external or internal events, such as a stressful situation or negative self-talk, and can cause us to fall back into old routines rather than taking steps towards forming new habits. It’s important for us to be aware of these loops so that we can recognize when they are happening and take steps towards changing them.

Creating a Routine

In order to break out of these loops, it’s important for us to create a routine that will help us stay consistent in our efforts. This means setting specific times each day when you dedicate yourself towards your goal; this helps establish a pattern of behavior that you can follow without having to think too hard about it or rely on willpower alone. Additionally, creating cues such as reminders or visual cues (such as notes on the mirror) can also help you stay on track with your goal even if you feel like giving up.

Resetting Your Expectations

It’s also important for us to understand that resetting our expectations is part of the process when forming new habits; every day won’t necessarily be perfect but if we approach things positively and keep at it then eventually those little steps will add up and lead us closer towards our goal. Additionally, understanding that mistakes are part of the learning process will help you stay motivated even when things aren’t going according to plan; instead of beating yourself up over missteps, use them as opportunities for growth so that you can learn from your experience and continue moving forward with your goal in mind.

Working with Brain Loops requires patience and consistency but is an invaluable tool when it comes to forming new habits. Understanding what triggers these loops is key; once we identify what sets off these patterns of thought then we can take steps toward changing them so that we can reach our goals more easily and effectively. Building a routine around your goals, creating cues, and resetting your expectations are all key components in helping you stay motivated during this process; by doing so you will find yourself much closer to achieving success!

3. Master Your Habits with Cues

Most of us have habits that we want to cultivate for our health and well-being; however, it can be hard to remember to do them. The good news is that cues can help you create better habits. A cue is anything that triggers a reminder to do something or act in a certain way. This could be an external visual cue (like sticky notes) or an internal one (like your mindset). By learning how to hack your brain’s reminder system with cues, you can make it easier to remember your desired health habits and stay consistent.

Types of Cues

Cues come in all shapes and sizes, but there are two main types: external and internal. External cues are physical reminders in the environment that prompt you to do something. For instance, if you want to drink more water throughout the day, keeping a bottle on your desk can serve as an external cue to remind you. Internal cues are things like setting goals or having positive affirmations that motivate you from within. These kinds of cues help build mental fortitude and keep us motivated even when we don’t feel like doing something.

Creating Effective Cues

The most effective cues are those that are consistently present in your environment or routine. A great way to make sure these cues stand out is by making them visual—for example, placing sticky notes around the house where they will easily be seen or refrigerating fresh veggies at eye level so they’re the first thing you see when opening the fridge door. Another way is by creating routines—if you know what time of day you’ll be doing something, it’s easier for your brain to adjust and remember this new habit. Additionally, creating mini-goals along the way can also help build momentum for larger goals down the line.

Creating healthy habits doesn’t have to be difficult—it just takes some intentionality and creativity! With a few simple steps such as utilizing effective cues, setting mini-goals along the way, and creating routines for yourself, you can begin forming positive habits that will benefit both your body and mind in the long run. So go ahead—start hacking away at your brain’s reminder system today! You’ll thank yourself tomorrow!

4. Build a Routine That Supports Your Goals

Have you ever thought about what it takes to achieve your personal goals? While many people have good intentions, they often lack the motivation and consistency needed to reach their desired destination. Positive habits are key to achieving your goals and can be developed with the right approach. Read on to discover how you can create meaningful habits that will help move you toward success.

Start with Why

The most successful habits start with an understanding of why you want to do something in the first place. Whether it is improving your health or developing a new skill, starting with why provides clarity and purpose for your actions. According to Gibbs, “Once you know your why, setting goals becomes much easier because you have a clear direction of where you want to go.”

Choose High Impact Habits

It’s essential to choose habits that make a difference and move you closer to your goals. For example, if one of your goals is improving your heart health, a meaningful habit might be to move more. Increasing physical activity can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol along with many other health benefits, Gibbs said. “Every little bit of activity is better than none,” she said. “Even small initial increases of 5-10 minutes a day can yield significant results over time.”

Make it Easy

Once you identify beneficial habits that support your ultimate goal, make sure they are easy enough that they become part of your routine without feeling like extra work. For instance, if exercising more is one of your priorities but going to the gym seems too daunting at first, start by walking around the block once or twice each day instead. Adding small doses of exercise into daily routines makes it easier for them to become part of our lives over time.

Find Ways To Stay Motivated

No matter how small the habit may feel at first, staying motivated is key for any change process in order for it to stick long-term. Gibbs suggests breaking down larger tasks into smaller chunks so that each step feels manageable and achievable within the bigger picture. Additionally, she encourages people not only to celebrate each victory no matter how small but also to use those successes as fuel for continued motivation toward future challenges ahead!

Creating positive habits that support our personal goals requires intentionality and consistency over time; however, once established these habits can create positive long-term results! Start by understanding why we want something in the first place then choose high impact habits that are easy enough for us to stick with over time while also finding ways stay motivated! Taking this approach will bring us closer to achieving our desired outcomes!

5. Rewards Can Help You Stick to Your Habits

Habits are formed by repetition, but sometimes it can be hard to stick with them. That’s where rewards come in. Incorporating a reward system into your habits can help you stay motivated and make them stick longer and more effectively. Let’s discuss how different types of rewards—both intrinsic and extrinsic—can help you create healthier habits in your life.

Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is motivation from within, such as feeling proud of yourself for completing a task or feeling accomplished after reaching a goal. It is important to recognize the small successes along the way and acknowledge your hard work — this can be done with positive self-talk or through affirmations. Even something as simple as crossing off each day on a calendar when successfully completing a habit can provide enough intrinsic motivation to keep striving for success.

Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic motivation comes from outside sources, such as tangible rewards like treats or activities or even tracking progress towards goals on an app or chart. Extrinsic rewards should be used sparingly but can provide an extra boost when needed — they should be something special that you enjoy, like going out for ice cream after accomplishing a difficult task or having a weekly movie night with friends once your goal has been reached. This type of reward will give you something to look forward to and help keep you motivated throughout the process!

Creating new habits takes time and effort, so it’s important to incorporate rewards that will help keep you motivated throughout the process. Intrinsic motivation is essential — recognizing successes along the way and celebrating small victories — while extrinsic motivation in the form of tangible rewards can also be helpful when used strategically. Utilizing both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation together can increase your chances of success in forming healthy habits that will last a lifetime!

6. Embracing Resets to Reach Your Goals

Many of us set goals for ourselves every year, and we start off with the best intentions. We begin working on our goals full of enthusiasm and determination…only to find that a few weeks later, we’ve lost momentum. If this has happened to you, don’t be discouraged! You can still reach your goals if you understand that resets are part of the process.

The first step is to get curious about why the habit isn’t working. Ask yourself questions like “What was my cue? Did I make it too complicated? Did I give myself an achievable reward? Did I find it enjoyable or not?” This helps you figure out what might have gone wrong so that you can identify what needs to be changed in order for the habit to stick.

Once you’ve done some self-reflection, it’s time to take action! Make adjustments based on your answers and create more effective cues and rewards that will help motivate you. Make sure your routine is broken down into small, achievable steps so that it doesn’t feel overwhelming when trying to maintain the habit. Additionally, if you realize that the habit just isn’t for you no matter how hard you try, don’t be afraid to pivot and try something else! There are endless options available, so keep exploring until you find something that works for you.

Finally, if at any point along this journey towards reaching your goal, a reset becomes necessary, know that it is okay—it happens! Don’t beat yourself up over it; instead, use it as an opportunity to reflect and learn what works best for you.

The most important thing when striving towards any goal is understanding that mistakes or setbacks do not mean failure but rather provide a chance for growth and learning. Resets are part of the process when creating healthy habits—they help us adapt our strategies until we find something that works for us. So if your habits aren’t sticking, don’t worry! Get curious about why they aren’t working and adjust accordingly until you find something that clicks with who you are and what works best for achieving your goals.

Building Lasting Healthy Habits

In summary, using the American Heart Association’s Healthy for Good Habit Coach provides six strategies for building lasting healthy habits including dispelling common habit-building myths, working with brain loops, utilizing rewards, creating cues and routines in order to reach goals, understanding resets are part of the process, and incorporating both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation into your habit-forming journey. By using all of these methods together you will be able to set yourself up for success when creating healthier lifestyle choices!

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