Five Steps to Building a New Habit

Habits are those little (or big!) things we do every day without thinking about them. I am going to guess that every one of us has some good ones and some bad ones, and that we would all like to add a few more good and take away the bad!

We can go over some tips for getting rid of bad habits in another post, but for today, let’s talk about how to build new good habits!

I have always found an interest in habit building. I love to learn about it and to try what I learn! These five tips are all great little nuggets that I have used and that really work. I hope you find them helpful, too!

1. Start Small

This can  be really hard for those of us who want to see big change in our lives, and want to see it now! But we are far, far more likely to stick with a habit if we start small and build from there. Better to be just a little closer to the goal, then take a huge leap and not be able to follow through!

I think it is usually true that the more change we need to make it our lives (particularly in the health and fitness realm), the smaller the first steps should be.

So, start small! Take just one baby step towards the end goal. Pick something that is small enough you know you will be able to stick with it. Once it is a habit and you don’t have to make yourself do it anymore, then you can take another baby step and move even farther forward!

If the habit you want to build is to exercise every day, don’t start with signing up to race a marathon. Instead, find one little, tiny thing you can do every day without feeling overwhelmed. This might be a half-hour jog, a fifteen-minute sprint, or even just a ten minute walk. You are already improving on where you are now, so don’t get discouraged and allow yourself to think you’re not making a difference! Establish the small habit, and the next step will be easier!

2. Make it Easy

Our brains and bodies don’t exactly like to do hard things. Unfortunately, it just is never going to be super easy to make a new habit! But, we can make it as easy as possible. This way, we will be much more likely to stick with it! 

To make a new habit easy, pick something that is small (as we just talked about), and then think about all the ways you can remove friction from that part of your life so that there are as few things as possible to get in the way. 

To use the exercise example again, make it easy by choosing an activity you can do without having to drive far, get up extra early for, and pay a lot of money for. So maybe instead of getting a gym membership (expensive) and driving forty minutes to get there (far) and having to get up at five am to fit in into your schedule, choose a nice, fifteen-minute morning jog around your neighborhood. This is time-efficient, close to home, and costs nothing!

3. Make it Fun

This is such a huge (but so simple!) key to building lasting habits! When you make it fun, you actually want to do it instead of dreading it!

Find a way to add an enjoyable element to your new habit. If the habit you are building is reading every day, then choose a book you really want to read. A book that captures your attention and that you don’t want to put down.

If your new habit is eating healthy, collect recipes that you are excited to make and that taste delicious! This way you will enjoy and look forward to the process.

4. Set Up Your Environment

Setting up your environment is another way to remove friction. The less friction we have in building a new habit, the more likely we are to stick with that habit.

There are a lot of ways to set up your environment for success. Start by thinking about anything and everything that would get in your way (physically and mentally) when trying to execute the new habit.

If you are wanting to make a habit of getting out of bed and journaling right away, but you tend to always check your phone and get distracted, then set up your environment by removing your phone from your bedroom. (This is a good idea anyway as having electronics in the bedroom negatively affects our sleep patterns!)

Once you have a new home for your phone (somewhere that you have a walk to to get to it), put your journal and pen on your nightstand right next to your bed. Put it so close that you don’t even have to get up to reach it. 

Do this step for every habit you are trying to build! Get all set up ahead of time so that nothing will be in your way to cause friction and give you an excuse to not follow through.

5. Add it to Existing Habits

James Clear in his book Atomic Habits (a really good read if you want to go more in-depth! You can get it here) calls this habit stacking. It works especially well if you are having a hard time remembering, or fitting in, your new habit.

Think over your already-established routines. What are the things you do every day without thinking about them? Once you have decided on a habit that is small, easy, and fun, and have set up your environment, then slip that habit in between two other habits that you already have and do every single day without any trouble. 

For example, if your new habit is going to be drinking a quart of lemon water first thing every morning, then decide to do it after you get up and use the bathroom, but before you brush your teeth. To set up your environment, you would have the quart of water ready the night before. Put a lid on it and set it on your bathroom counter right next to your toothbrush. See how this works? You will get up, use the bathroom, then go to brush your teeth. When you see your water jar there, you will drink it down with no valid excuses!

I hope these five tips will help you build habits that will last!