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  • 5 Strategies for Establishing a New Habit

    by Chris Tullo, LAC

    1. Start Small

    If you find yourself losing motivation, you may be trying to do too much too soon. The harder a task is, the more motivation is required. By setting the bar as low as possible in the beginning, you can lay a solid foundation of consistency that can be built upon over time.

    Try starting with something so easy you can’t say no! For example, if you want to exercise, commit to just 5 minutes of activity each day. Starting is the hardest part, and you may find that once you start your five minutes, you’ll end up doing that activity for much longer!

    2. Be Specific

    Make sure you’ve clearly and specifically defined your habit. Instead of saying “I want to exercise more,” specify what, when, and where you’ll exercise. For instance, “I will go for a 20-minute jog every morning at 7 am in the park.”

    “I want to eat healthier,” becomes “I will stop eating junk food and soda, and will start cooking balanced meals at home that use fresh ingredients.”

    “I want to be on social media less,” becomes “I will read a book or do another activity whenever I’m bored or feel tempted to scroll.”

    3. Avoid Triggers and Remove Obstacles

    Identifying the triggers and obstacles that negatively affect or disrupt your habit is important to staying motivated. If you notice it’s hard to be consistent with your habit, take time to analyze and discover the source of the disruption or negative feelings.

    If your goal is to be asleep no later than 10:30pm, something that may be preventing you from doing that is the temptation to scroll on your phone. To remove this obstacle, try buying an alarm clock and establishing a habit of leaving your phone in another room to charge so that you aren’t tempted to reach for it before you sleep.

    If you are having trouble eating healthy because you pass your favorite place to eat on your way home from work, try taking a different route home.

    If you are struggling to motivate yourself to read, maybe you aren’t enjoying the book that you’re reading! Try putting down Dante’s Inferno and picking up something that would be easier and more enjoyable for you, like a YA novel! Those are usually fun, quick, and easy reads that could get you excited to continue reading other books.

    4. Create Reminders

    When something is new and not yet a habit, it can be easy to forget about. Our brains are like computers with only so much working memory, so the more you are doing the harder it is to hold on to information. This is why it’s usually a bad idea to multitask too many activities. A way to address this is to set up an external system to remind you to perform your habit at a particular time of day. You can use notifications, sticky notes, digital calendars, or smartphone apps to keep yourself on track.

    It can also be helpful to prompt yourself using a currently established habit or part of your routine. This way your brain can connect the two together, and the one will trigger you to remember the other. If you would like to read more, you could say, “After I get into bed, I will read a chapter from my book.” Performing these actions in sequence for long enough will eventually trigger your brain to remember to read as soon as you get into bed, and reading will become a part of your nightly routine.

    5. Track and Celebrate Progress

    Establish clear, achievable goals. Make them measurable and time-bound. For example, “I will read one book a month by reading 5 pages 5 times a week.” Seeing your progress add up as you get closer to your goal is greatly motivating and creates a sense of accomplishment.

    Finally, celebrate your successes along the way! Try rewarding yourself for sticking to your habit. Plan small rewards for yourself at brief intervals to create a shorter positive feedback loop, and bigger rewards for achieving major milestones.


    Establishing a new habit or replacing an unhealthy one is a great way to level-up our physical and mental well-being and improve our quality of life.

    It can feel challenging, overwhelming, and even impossible to alter a pattern of life that is so familiar and comfortable to us. However, change is always possible and I hope that these tips and strategies will encourage you and help you to maintain any healthy habits you are seeking to establish this year.