10 tips to help make positive habits stick

Creating positive habits can be as challenging as breaking the bad ones. Here are ten tips to help you make those positive habits stick.

Building positive habits is a common aspiration but translating it into sustained action can be challenging. How do we bridge the gap between aspirations and long-term, healthy routines? Here are ten key strategies to help you make those positive habits stick.

 

 1. Be specific about your goal

Vague goals like “be healthier” or “reduce stress” lack clarity. When setting your goal, be more specific.

Example: “Reduce stress” can become “Practise mindful breathing for five minutes a day” or “Join a local yoga class once a week.” These more specific goals offer a clear path to success.

 

2. Be realistic

Big goals like “going to the gym every day after work” can be overwhelming and cause stress if you cannot sustain it. Begin with achievable small goals, then build momentum.

Example: Rather than aiming to go to the gym every day, you can start with going once or twice a week. Or, if your goal is to be physically active, you can skip the gym and start with a free activity like following a YouTube fitness class once a week. Small wins pave the way for bigger victories.

 

3. Keep it simple

Multitasking with multiple goals can drain your energy and increase the risk of burnout. If too many challenging demands are pulling at your attention, you’re more likely to fall back into old ways as your energy becomes drained. Instead, focus on one habit you want to work on.

 

Example: Choose one habit at a time, like healthier eating or better sleep, and focus on mastering it before adding another challenge.

 

4. Repetition reigns

Consistency is key. It’s easier to form a new habit when it is repeated. So, the more you repeat that positive habit, the better the chance of sticking. Aim for daily or weekly repetition.

Example: If you want to sleep better, start a new bedtime routine and get into the habit of going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. Set reminders on your phone to help you stick to your schedule.

 

5. With a little help from our friends

Surround yourself with supportive friends, family, or a support group. Sharing your goals, celebrating triumphs, and receiving encouragement can be a powerful motivator, especially during challenging moments.

Example: Recruit a buddy to join in on your goal, cheer each other on, and offer support when things get tough.

 

6. Silence the inner critic

When we’re trying to incorporate something new into our lives, there’s often a point where self-doubt creeps in, and we start to question our ability to achieve something. Counter negative thought loops with positive self-talk.

Example: Instead of thinking, “I overslept again; my sleeping habits are so bad”, tell yourself, “I am doing my best to reach my goal, and I will try again tonight.”

 

7. Embrace the slip-up

Progress is rarely linear, and occasional stumbles are inevitable. Through our mistakes and slip-ups, we can learn and grow. It may feel like you have taken a step back, but don’t be too hard on yourself. You can dust yourself off and start again.

Example: The healthy eating plan goes off track when you indulge in snacks at work. Instead of feeling guilty, recognise the trigger and plan to pack healthy snacks next time. Learn from the experience and recommit. Each attempt is a step towards your goal.

 

8. Replace, don’t just remove

Breaking bad habits can be tough. Removing something from your routine can be uncomfortable and feel a bit strange at first. To help, replace your bad habit with a healthier alternative.

Example: Chewing gum instead of smoking, taking a walk instead of scrolling social media mindlessly – find substitutes that satisfy your needs without compromising your goals.

 

9. Track your progress

Monitoring your progress can motivate you, which is also why having specific goals is important. Seeing your accomplishments, no matter how small, fuels your determination to keep going.

Example: Keep a journal, use an app, or simply check off completed tasks on a calendar.

 

10. Celebrate successes

Acknowledge your achievements, big or small. Reaching a milestone? Celebrate! Sticking with your goal for a week? Treat yourself! Celebrating your victories reinforces positive behaviour and keeps you moving forward.

Example: Cooked a delicious veggie-based meal for the first time? Reward yourself with a movie night. Completed a fortnight of regular exercise? Treat yourself to a new workout outfit.

 

 

Remember, building positive habits is a journey. Be patient and kind to yourself and celebrate every step towards achieving your goals.

 

 

If you would like to talk about your situation, call Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 to speak to a counsellor. We’re here 24/7 and our service is free.  

 

If it is an emergency, dial 000.

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