The No. 1 Trick to Establishing Healthy Habits (That Actually Last)

“I need to get back into healthy habits.”

I’m betting this phrase has come out of your mouth before.

We all know that establishing healthy habits is important and it also makes us feel good. So, why is it so hard to establish them and keep them up? I’m going to share with you why we humans are designed to fail, and what we can do about avoiding tripping up in the realistic potholes.

We tend to rely on our initial motivation and willpower to get us going to the gym for that first week. But then that initial rush of motivation inevitably wanes, and our willpower gets depleted by trying to convince ourselves that our protein shakes taste better than ice cream. Willpower is truly like a muscle: it can be trained to a certain extent to get stronger, but it can’t stay rigidly flexed around the clock without an eventual collapse.

When you wake up after a solid night’s rest, your bank account of willpower should be pretty full. Then as you continue on with your day, bits of willpower gets drained by everything from large decisions during a work crisis to seemingly minor decisions like choosing between parmesan crisps or feta to add into your salad for lunch. Every single decision you make throughout the day requires effort, making a withdrawal from that bank of willpower.

The solution? Make things convenient so it requires minimal mental energy, and then nail it by “piggybacking” the habit onto something already in your routine. It makes the integration of new habits seamless and less intimidating to tackle.

First, think of the everyday habits you do that you don’t give a second thought to — things like brushing your teeth, putting in your contacts, turning the coffeemaker on, blending a morning smoothie, or plugging in your phone before going to sleep. Then, let’s say you want to start taking vitamins consistently. Place your vitamins next to your toothbrush in your bathroom, or next to your blender. Piggybacking a habit on top of something that is already a no-brainer makes the new habit feel familiar, which then helps establish the consistency and success of it.

It is also important to focus on changing a single habit at a time, and making sure it becomes effortless before adding another into the mix. Research shows that when people focus on a single behavioral change, the success rate at continuing with that habit for a year or more is over 80%. When two behaviors or habits are tackled at once, the success rate decreases to 35%. Three behaviors or habits? That success rate plummets to less than 5%. It’s one of the reasons why those massive overhauls of health and lifestyle often fail.

If you want to succeed long-term with those healthy habits, keep things simple. Tackle one habit at a time, and piggyback them onto familiar routines so they don’t become another item on your list you have to check off on a busy day.


How to do stay focused on healthy habits? Tell us in the comments below!!