Over the years, there have been disagreements on how long it takes to form a healthy habit.
Some studies have shown it takes as little as 21 days, while others say it can take over 200 for some people. Regardless of how long it takes to form healthy habits, constant repetition and positive affirmations are key components to ensuring you stick to a goal you've set for yourself.
You don't have to wait until January 1 to set a new habit for yourself. Self-care and mental health are important all year long. If you have the urge to start creating a more positive mind frame, don't hesitate.
In this guide, we'll go over ways you can create a more positive body image and improve your overall mental wellness by forming healthy habits.
The Difference Between Goals and Habits
Many people get goals and habits confused. They are a bit different.
The definitions are:
- Goal: A desired outcome or result you want to achieve
- Habit: A certain behavior you repeatedly repeat subconsciously, like a fixed way of feeling or thinking
There is a higher success rate with setting healthy habits rather than picking a goal. Habit formation often lasts longer than goal-setting, creating a long-term response.
However, keep in mind that with forming health habits, you do set small goals for yourself. Achieving these goals helps create good habits. For example, it's easier to walk for 30 minutes a day than to go out and run five miles.
How to Form Healthy Habits
It could take you a few months to create a new habit. Whatever new habit you decide to take on needs to be implemented into your routine.
There are a few rules for habit-forming:
Cue: A certain trigger that puts your brain into automatic mode
- Example: The time of day you do a certain activity
Routine: The activity or behavior itself
- Example: Doing ten minutes of yoga each morning when you get up
Reward: The positive feeling or signal that you get, reinforcing the habit pattern in your brain
- Example: The feeling of relaxation and inner peace
For your habit to stick, you have to leverage each of the above components that comprise the "habit loop."
Tips for Succeeding in Healthy Habit Formation
Don't waste time in beginning your healthy habit journey. You can start journaling ideas to start the brainstorming process.
Some ways to stay on track with your habit formation are:
- Keep a notebook where you track the progress of your habits
- Stay motivated
- Be consistent
- Don't give up if you miss a habit one or two days
- Be flexible
- Pay attention to your environment and how it can affect your motivation
- Focus on things like gratitude if you're feeling unmotivated
- Show yourself compassion
Staying positive and not being hard on yourself is important when creating healthy habits. Don't be a self-defeatist if you miss a habit one day. There's always tomorrow to get back on track.
How to Pick Healthy Habits
Healthy has a different definition for each person. If you decide you want to live a healthier lifestyle—either physical, mental, or both, you've made the first step in the right direction.
Some tips on how to select some healthy habits to implement are:
- Define what "healthy" means for you
- Discover your purpose
- Begin with simple, small habits
- Decide what your "cue" is
- Focus on your reward or end goal
- Have accountability partners
Being kind to yourself is essential during this process. Determine what it is you want to achieve and jot down small ideas on how you can make that happen.
Examples of Healthy Habits
Whether your habits are for mental, physical, or emotional wellness, there are certain ones you can implement to improve your life.
Use a blank journal or a self-care workbook to write out your thoughts. Depending on your mood, you can free-write your feelings or use a guided journal to help prompt what you write about that day.
Some options include:
- Mental health workbook
- Body positivity journal
It's a great opportunity to release pent-up feelings or emotions and find clarity.
Reset your mind and refocus your inner thoughts with meditation. Locate a quiet and calm spot in your house that you designate as your meditation spot. Use guided meditations or sit quietly, clearing your head and breathing deeply.
Enjoy a Meal with Your Loved Ones
Whether you live alone or in a house filled with people, make time each week to have a comforting meal with your friends and family. People's schedules can get hectic. Pick a time each week where you gather, making a meal together or have a potluck.
No matter how busy your schedule is, don't skip this weekly meal. Spending time with those who love and support you will boost your mental health.
Take a 15 Minute Walk in the Morning
Even the shortest walk can improve your cardiovascular health. When you get up and before you start your day, take a quick walk outside. If walking outside isn't an option, look for guided walks on the internet, and use a treadmill.
Carve Out Quiet Time for Yourself
Life can be busy and you need time to recharge yourself. Whether you take time to read a chapter from a book or take a bubble bath, take time each day for yourself. Turn off your phone and enjoy the peace and quiet.
Positive Self Talk
We're all our own worst critics. Don't beat yourself down with negative self-talk. If you find yourself dreading the workday before it even begins, turn that around.
Start each day with a positive affirmation to improve your mood. Even just telling yourself that it'll be a good day can turn things around for yourself. Don't feed into mental negativity.
Start Your Healthier Lifestyle Today
Healthy is different for every person. You could be physically in shape, but struggling to cope with everyday life. Establishing healthy habits is the best form of self-care you can do for yourself.
No matter what form your healthy habit takes, you'll find plenty of tools along the way. Click here to check out our collection of self-care zines to support your physical, emotional, and mental self-care.
Image credit: Farah