5 ways to build healthy habits

Many of us love to make bold changes in the hopes that we can hit our health goals, whatever they may be. But forming healthy habits can be easier than you think and generally, it’s the small changes that set you for sustainable and long-lasting change.

In this article, we talk about how to build healthy habits and simple tips you can follow, so you can take the steps towards a healthier life.



Start small


When a behavior becomes automatic or something you do without thinking, it’s a habit. There are some behaviors that we do automatically and others that we have to make a conscious effort to do. If you think about something and have to force yourself to do it, it’s not quite a habit yet. 


It’s never too late to start experiencing the benefits of a healthier lifestyle. To build healthy habits, think small. While it’s tempting to change your diet, exercise routine, sleep schedule, and hydration goals in one day, it’s difficult to sustain this long-term. Too many good intentions at once make it challenging to be consistent. Bursts of motivation are exhilarating, and it’s easy to get carried away (we are guilty of this, too!). 


Building healthy habits takes a lot of conscious effort. Start focusing on one or two habits. These should be realistic, so you can take one step at a time. Over time, these small steps can add up to powerful changes. 


Here are some ideas for healthy habits you could start with – not every one of these will be “easy” for every person, but hopefully at least one can fit into your existing routine without much friction: 


  • Drink an extra glass of water each day 

  • Aim to walk an extra 5,000 steps daily 

  • Add one home workout to your week 

  • Start your morning with a daily healthy smoothie 

  • Cook one healthy meal at home each week (or have a kencko bowl if you don’t have the time to cook)

  • Try to get at least seven hours of sleep each night 


Tie it into an existing habit


Think about the habits you already do that are incredibly natural to you. This could be brushing your teeth, your morning coffee, reading time, or having a bath or shower. These habits are pretty standard for most of us. 


When building habits, try to stack a new habit on top of one you already do. Essentially, we’re stacking a new behavior on an existing one. The idea is that habit stacking increases the chances of sticking with the new habit. 


Habits come from connections our brains have nurtured and strengthened over the years. By stacking a new habit onto an existing one, we don’t have to start from scratch. The old habit is the prompt for the new habit. It’s easier to start building new habits when it’s off the back of something you do every day without thinking. 


If this process works for you, you can link the habits with each behavior, acting as a cue for the next. 


Here are some ideas of how you can tie a new habit into an existing one: 


  • After making your bed in the morning, stretch for five minutes 

  • Have a protein smoothie straight after a workout 

  • Add almond milk to your morning coffee instead of cream 

  • Try having a piece of fruit alongside your afternoon coffee

  • When you see stairs, use them instead of an elevator 

  • After you put the kettle on, drink a big glass of water 

  • While your coffee brews, take five deep breaths 

  • After a work meeting, go for a ten-minute walk 

  • Do some squats while brushing your teeth 


When first starting, make a list of your cue options to decide the best habits to tie in. These are the habits you already do, like having a shower or cooking dinner. Try to be specific but straightforward with your new habits. The aim is to create realistic habits. 


Don’t forget to reward your success. Did you successfully stretch for five minutes after making your bed for a whole week? Celebrate that!


Set yourself up for success


Making behaviors habitual takes time. When you over-commit and fail, it can really hurt your motivation. For instance, setting a goal of cooking from scratch every day is great. But if you have back-to-back meetings and a massive project at work, you likely never had the time to commit to this in the first place. 


Developing healthy habits is about being kind to yourself and giving yourself the chance to succeed. That means we all must make it as easy as possible to perform a new habit. Let’s remove any obstacle in the way so that we can focus on the new behavior. Many assume that small changes don’t add up, but this isn’t true. 


Here are some ways to make it easier to build a new habit: 


  • Set a phone reminder to tell you to drink some water every hour 

  • Store healthy snacks in your desk or bag so you always have something healthy to eat on hand 

  • Lay out workout clothes the night before a morning workout 

  • Fill up half your plate with vegetables at dinner 

  • Eat one extra piece of fruit each day 


Find a buddy


We all have those days when the last thing you want to do is go to the gym. But instead of accepting that it’s a couch night, find an accountability partner. This could be a friend or family member who also wants to make some healthy changes. You can motivate, support, and encourage each other to stick to a new habit. 


Research shows that you’re 10% more likely to succeed when you have a goal. You’re then 65% more likely to hit a goal with an accountability partner. That number jumps to 95% with regular check-ins from your partner. 


We can see the power of accountability, especially in health and fitness. Having someone at the end of a phone who is ready to encourage, support, and motivate is a great way to stay on track. You don’t need to spend money on a personal trainer. An accountability partner can be anyone you know, like a friend from work, spin class, or a partner. 


When forming healthy habits, one of the best things you can do is find a partner. You can create accountability for each other in so many different ways: 


  • Check in with each other each day to show support 

  • Set weekly goals together to stay focused

  • Go to the grocery store together for a healthy food shop 

  • Work out with your buddy 

  • Make a plan to go for a walk with a friend 

  • Try new foods and healthy recipes together 


Make it fun!


It’s easier to commit to a new habit when it’s fun. Sometimes, everyone needs a little persuasion to work out or make healthier food choices. When we build healthy habits, the aim is to make the behavior automatic, which takes time. Consistency is crucial in creating a habit. 


Try to make the habit you’re trying to adopt fun to repeat because you need to do it a lot for it to become a habit. 


For instance, say you want to get fitter. Sometimes, people look for an exercise that can generate quicker results. This could be grinding it out on the treadmill several times a week. Research shows that if you can make goal pursuit fun, ultimately, you will achieve more and stick to it for longer.   


Here are some other ideas for making healthy habits fun: 


  • Make fitness competitive either with a workout buddy or a fitness watch where you can track and compare your progress 

  • Join a sports team or fitness class that’s exciting, like aerial yoga or a local tennis club 

  • Find a healthy recipe each week with a new ingredient to experience different flavors 

  • Treat yourself to some new workout clothes to get excited about going to the gym


Don’t expect every attempt you make to change habits to be successful immediately. We are all imperfect, and that’s okay. There will be a few bumps along the way, so be kind to yourself and don’t feel guilty if there’s a slip-up. The idea is that you start simply and step by step. Creating healthy habits doesn’t need to be complicated. If you find that a new habit is impossible for you to maintain with your schedule, then it’s not quite right for you. We want you to have the best possible chance of success. These simple tips are a good place to start and have a deceptively large impact. You will be on your way to a healthier lifestyle in no time. 


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