Nine tips to help you create (and stick to) good habits

Despite our best intentions, it’s not always easy to stick to good habits, especially if they’re new. Here are nine expert tips to help you.

Are you perhaps feeling that now’s the time to improve your health and your life? Good habits are often crucial to achieving good results and a positive outcome.

You may be looking to lose weight, become fitter, more successful, are motivated to do well at work or feel it’s time to extend your circle of friends; all require sustained effort to continue beyond the first few enthusiastic days.

Whatever new habit you want to make stick, here are nine tips to help you.

1) Choose a new habit that feels right

The first thing to appreciate about good habits is that they must have a real resonance for you. If you’re not especially bothered about being slimmer, fitter or more successful, then that lack of enthusiasm won’t sustain you through cold dark evenings or on the tough days when your will power starts to waver.

Having friends or family who are pushing you to ‘improve’ only increases your stress levels, resentment and maybe even feelings of low self-esteem. Instead, you need to pick good habits that feel right for you.

2) Take small steps

Small steps are a positive way to move towards your bigger goals. Stepping-stones can help to prevent you from feeling overwhelmed at having to tackle everything all at once.

Recognise each milestone you achieve; give yourself credit for enrolling in that class, not eating that cake, declining that alcoholic drink. Each decision takes you nearer to those good results.

If you have a big goal, it can also help to chunk it down into smaller, more manageable steps, giving you closer and more achievable milestones to hit (and celebrate) on your way to your ultimate, ambitious goal.

3) Stay focussed

Stay focused, but also appreciate that sometimes other options may appear which can add value to your life. Don’t allow yourself to become too distracted from your agreed good habits but equally be ready for great opportunities that may come along.

Ring-fence the time, money or mental energy you expend on distractions. Allow yourself to make the most of them and enjoy what they bring to your life, but don’t let them take you away from the big picture and your ultimate goal.

4) Be accountable

Being accountable to others can be a great motivator. Having to check in regularly and report on your progress ensures that you keep your eye on each stage of the journey. Knowing that you’ve a regular date in the diary can quickly push temptations out of your mind.

5) Join a group

Joining a group and working together on shared goals can provide a good support network. Exchanging tips, advice and motivational stories can give a real boost on those tired, unenthusiastic days. And if we know our attendance is important to the group’s survival it can inspire us to continue going.

Being a group member, even when it’s online, can encourage us to stick with our good habits. The downside though is that if one or two members lose their enthusiasm it can demotivate the rest.

6) Commit your cash

Sometimes paying upfront to join a club or gym pushes people to go regularly, whilst others lose interest and go only a couple of times even after paying out all that money.

For me, I’ve committed to a weekly delivery of locally grown organic vegetables. It’s inspired me to eat at least one item from the box every day and it’s good to cook from scratch, eat fresh organic meals, shop local and sometimes try new things that I’ve never cooked before.

Having it arrive every week means there’s no excuse to slack off from eating this healthy veg, and it’s a habit I’m pleased to maintain.

7) Find your weak spots

Be aware of your vulnerable areas and put steps in place to mitigate them. So, for example, if you know that you find reasons to justify stopping at the petrol station, off licence or supermarket every day, where you then ‘accidentally’ buy chocolates, wine, cigarettes or scratch cards, intercept those times and don’t go.

Instead, shop online or make a list and shop once a week. Don’t put yourself in temptation’s way.

8) Hire a coach

Using the services of a professional coach or therapist may be worth considering if you feel there are specific issues which are holding you back and which need to be addressed.

Regular sessions could help you move on, introduce a positive mindset, manage stress and determine to treat yourself better.

9) Be gentle

Be gentle with yourself. It can take two to six months for a new habit to become your automatic default. If you experience slip ups, bad days and ‘can’t be bothered’s be kind to yourself and let them go.

Remind yourself of all the good reasons you have to persist and start again, knowing that by sticking with your good habits you’ll ultimately support good results and outcomes.

Susan Leigh is a counsellor, hypnotherapist, relationship counsellor, writer and media contributor on relationship issues, stress management, assertiveness and confidence.

She is the author of three books: ‘Dealing with Stress, Managing its Impact’, ‘101 Days of Inspiration #tipoftheday’ and ‘Dealing with Death, Coping with the Pain’, all on Amazon.

Photo by Emma Simpson