Two Simple Steps to Make Your New Healthy Habits Stick

12/21/2023 by Kari Perlewitz

Portrait of a senior man at swimming poolWe’re about to enter the start of a new year, which means that most of us are going to try to develop some new healthy habits.

Getting these new habits to stick isn’t as difficult as it might seem. You just need to follow two simple steps to take your goals from short-term to long-term — create a good foundation and then repeat it until they become second-nature!

In this post, we’ll dive into why these two steps are so important and why they work so well from a psychological perspective. 

Step 1 – Build a Foundation for Your New Healthy Habits

When choosing a new healthy habit to adopt, you want to set yourself up for success. For example, if you’re not a long-distance runner, setting a goal to run a marathon by the end of the year is way too ambitious. Instead, think about your new habit the same way you think about building a house. You need a good foundation in place before you can add more!

Let’s go back to the running example again. Instead of a marathon, you might build a good foundation by running intervals (alternating walking and running) three times per week. As you do this, you can challenge yourself to shorten the time you walk until you can run a mile without stopping. You’re continuously being challenged WHILE you develop new habits!

To give you another example, let’s say you want to cook more at home. You wouldn’t immediately start with advanced recipes that require fancy tools and four hours in the kitchen. Instead, you might start with a meal kit, where they send you the ingredients and recipe cards. Once you master some initial cooking skills and gain confidence, you can add in some more technical recipes. It’s all about building skills and habits that will support you long-term!

Step 2 – Practice Repetition Around Your New Habits

The next step is just to practice, practice, practice. By doing this, you are essentially programming your brain like a computer and coding these new habits into your “database.” As much as we like to believe there is a shortcut to this, there’s not. It just requires repetition! 

A lot of people want to know how long it takes to make a habit stick. You might have heard a statistic that it takes 21 days to “lock in” a new habit. We asked J. Jonathan Benitez, LPC, LMHC, Behavioral Health Integration Manager at North County HealthCare if this is true.

“There is much research regarding specific numbers. However, the human experience is ever-changing and an individual’s interpretation of their environment can impact the number of days or repetitions needed. Think about driving a car. How many times did it take to become automatic? This varies based on your individual experience. Instead of hitting a specific number, focus on the positive emotions connected to the habit being formed. By doing this, you’re using different parts of your brain, which will increase your chances of success.”

If we go back to our running example, incorporating interval training three times per week is a great way to practice your new healthy habit. And, because you’re adjusting the length of your intervals as you become stronger at running, you’re keeping things interesting! This will really help, especially on those days when you might not feel like putting on your running shoes.

At North Country HealthCare, we want to help you accomplish all of your health goals… in the new year and beyond! Feel free to reach out to us and we will match you with a provider that will help you get started on your journey. We accept Medicare, Medicaid, and a wide variety of commercial insurance plans. If you are uninsured, our Health Benefits Advocates are happy to work with you to check your insurance eligibility and help you with enrollment.

Don’t let anything stand between you and your goals. Together, we can make it happen!

Categories: Health Tips, News

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