- 50 Healthy Habits That Are Completely Attainable
- 1. Start fresh every single day
- 2. Understand that exercise doesn’t have to be a big time commitment
- 3. Check your credit card statements, bank statements, and pay stubs regularly
- 4. Adopt a “meatless Monday” mentality
- 5. Drink something warm in the morning
- 6. Cut back on evil sugar
- 7. Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses
- 8. Use a retinol if you’re starting to get wrinkles
- 9. Check in with HR
- 10. Count to 10 when you’re pissed off
- 11. Start biking
- 12. Put. Down. The. Cell. Phone.
- 13. Stop beating yourself up
- 14. Don’t do drugs
- 15. wise, don’t smoke
- 16. Take care of your clothes
- 17. Consolidate and pay off debt as soon as possible
- 18. Don’t overdo the booze
- 19. Don’t snack if you’re not hungry
- 20. Practice the 2/30 rule
- 21. Take pains to prevent getting sunburned
- 6 Happiness Habits And a (Free) Happiness Journal
- The Six Habits that Will Rewire Your Brain For Happiness
- The Happiness Journal (Free)
- Six Habits of Happy and Successful People
- 1. Be Generous
- 2. Get It Done
- 3. Get Moving
- 4. Take Your Time
- 5. Be Patient
- 6. Sleep, Sleep, Sleep
- Get Started
- What Does Success Really Mean to You? Six Habits for Instant Success
- 1. Have a good time pursuing commitments
- 2. Choose to be happy
- 3. Make people more important than fortune or fame
- 4. Stop gossiping, judging, and complaining
- 5. Stop fretting! Live in the moment
- 6. Be a ray of sunshine to others
- Keystone Habits: Improve All Areas of Your Life with One Small Habit
- What Are Keystone Habits?
- Examples of Keystone Habits
- How to Identify Your Keystone Habits
- How to Make Your Keystone Habit Stick
- Keep track of your habit every day
- Start small
- Plan ahead
- Make It Easy
- Learn More About Building Productive Habits
50 Healthy Habits That Are Completely Attainable
Did you happen to wake up this morning, eat a plant-only breakfast, workout for the recommended 30 minutes, keep your stress levels down, make zero splurge-y purchases, pack your own lunch, connect with your friends and family and disconnect from social media today? No? Cool. You’re right here with the rest of us mortals.
Before you think we’re giving you a free pass to do absolutely nothing to be healthier, listen up: We can all make changes. And just because you can’t be perfect about your habits—who among us can?—doesn’t mean it’s not worth working toward small changes that make you feel better.
Whether you start to adopt a few at a time, or vow to make them all a part of your life right now, here are 50 healthy habits every woman should have.
1. Start fresh every single day
It might sound a little corny, but every day could—and should—be considered a fresh start.
Had a fight with your mom/boyfriend/landlord yesterday and didn’t resolve it? Had an awful day at work that you went to bed thinking about? Not thrilled with the way your friends treated you while you were out last night? Today’s a new day, and you should use it to approach the problem with fresh eyes and commit to either resolving the issue if it’s important, or move on completely if it’s something small or petty. You’d be surprised how insignificant problems might look once you put a few hours of distance between you.
2. Understand that exercise doesn’t have to be a big time commitment
We don’t have to tell you that the biggest healthy habit every girl should have is exercising regularly, although so many of us claim we simply don’t have time. We hate to break it you, but that’s not really an excuse, as there’s mounting evidence that short but frequent bouts of exercise can yield some major health benefits.
For example, a study published by the American Journal of Sports Medicine in 2006 showed that short walks after dinner were more effective than long exercise sessions in reducing the amount of fat and triglyceride levels in the bloodstream after a hearty meal, according to WebMD.
3. Check your credit card statements, bank statements, and pay stubs regularly
This one’s definitely a mental health habit that we all should be extremely diligent about. With security breaches happening left and right, it’s key to take ownership of your own finances by always knowing exactly where your money went, when it’s coming in, and any inconsistencies that arise.
4. Adopt a “meatless Monday” mentality
Did you know that cutting out meat—even if it’s merely once a week—can drastically decrease your risk of heart disease by up to 19%, according to a Harvard University study? Eating a diet heavy on red and other processed meats have been shown to increase the risk of diabetes, obesity, and other health problems. Cutting back on meat can also impact the environment by reducing the amount of fossil fuel and water that’s used to raise livestock. Do yourself a favor and dedicate one day to fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, and nuts.
5. Drink something warm in the morning
A glass of lukewarm water with lemon (and cayenne pepper, if you dare) first thing.This morning drink gets your organs going, and fresh lemon juice and cayenne pepper both have major anti-fungal, immune boosting, and detoxification properties. Plus, Lemon juice is nature’s best tool for aiding in digestion and regularity, destroying bacteria and cleansing the system.
6. Cut back on evil sugar
If you cut anything from your diet today, make it sugar. In and of itself, sugar has no nutrients, no protein, no healthy fats, and no enzymes, making it empty calories that have disastrous effects on our health.
7. Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses
Never try to keep up with that one friend who always has the new “It” item—it’s a dangerous game to play, one that not only can harm your wallet, but can also wreak havoc on your self-worth, if you let it.
8. Use a retinol if you’re starting to get wrinkles
Instead of continuously wasting money on the latest anti-aging creams, ask your dermatologist to prescribe you a good retinol product—it’s the only thing that really works, anyway.
9. Check in with HR
Ask your office Human Resources department to remind you of benefits you’re probably not using, such as flex spending accounts for prescriptions, transit cards, or classes.
10. Count to 10 when you’re pissed off
This healthy habit is one we all should adopt: Before reacting, take a beat. You’d be surprised at how much perspective you can gain in 10 seconds, as opposed to irrationally firing off an email, or confronting someone sheer anger before collecting your thoughts.
11. Start biking
Even if it’s just to do a few errands on the weekends instead of driving, cabbing, or taking the subway. Most cities have bicycle sharing programs for people who aren’t owners .
12. Put. Down. The. Cell. Phone.
Not only is it incredibly rude and predictable to always be on your phone, but obsessively stalking your cell before bed can have serious health effects.
According ot the Daily Mail, staring at your mobile’s screen at bedtime causes people to take longer to reach the deeper stages of sleep and to spend less time in them.
Bad news, as deep sleep is essential for your body to rejuvenate cells and repair damage suffered during the day. Seriously, Instagram can wait until morning.
13. Stop beating yourself up
About every little thing that happens at home, at work, or socially. If you’re really regretful or unhappy about something specific (snapping at your boss, not calling your family enough, drinking too much at a friend’s party and doing something silly) address it head-on, otherwise move on. Harping on things can only add extra anxiety to your life.
14. Don’t do drugs
It might sound funny when put so succinctly, but you’re never going to save any cash with bad habits. Plus, legal fees will be a bitch if you get caught.
15. wise, don’t smoke
Between exorbitant cigarette prices and health bills down the line, it’s so not worth it.
16. Take care of your clothes
Wash them properly, hang them up, and fold them instead of tossing them on the floor, and get things repaired if needed. (Here’s a starter guide filled with 101 tips to care for everything in your closet.)
17. Consolidate and pay off debt as soon as possible
If you have debt, make it a point to consolidate it to a lower interest and paying it off ASAP. Money paid in interest is money thrown away, ladies.
18. Don’t overdo the booze
Theres’s nothing wrong with a few cocktails now and again, but overdoing it on the regular can lead to a host of health problems, including (but not limited to) sleeplessness, weight gain, and—according to some reports—a heightened risk of breast cancer.
19. Don’t snack if you’re not hungry
Mindless eating can lead to weight gain and general unfulfillment, so be sure to eat—and enjoy—when your body tells you it’s physically craving food, not when you’re bored, stressed, or upset.
20. Practice the 2/30 rule
While we love vegging out in front of the tube as much as the next girl, we understand that too much “Real Housewives” could lead to Real Problems.
According to Reader’s Digest, a large-scale study of over 9000 people found that those who watched more than two hours of TV a day ate more, while downing more sugary sodas and high-fat, high-cal, processed snack foods than those who watched less.
Try following the 2/30 rule: limit TV to two hours a day, and be sure to get in 30 minutes of exercise.
21. Take pains to prevent getting sunburned
You don’t need us to tell you about the importance of wearing sunscreen, but it’s key to remember that—apart from SPF—it’s key to wear sunglasses that block 90% of both UVA and UVB rays, and to avoid exposure to the midday sun (10 a.m. to 4 p.m. standard time or 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daylight saving time).
6 Happiness Habits And a (Free) Happiness Journal
Imagine waking up every morning feeling happy and content.
Harvard-trained positive psychologist Shawn Achor–author of the New York Times bestseller “The Happiness Advantage“–has made a career studying the science of happiness.
His TED talk on happiness is one of the most popular of all time with over 13 million views. Achor argues that, as a society, our focus is on productivity, and we’ve ignored happiness and meaning. And we’ve done this to our detriment.
After all, studies show that having a happy brain gives us a competitive advantage at work, and in life.
Here are some of these advantages:
- When the human brain is positive, intelligence rises. This is because we stop diverting resources to worry and to feeling anxious.
- Happiness triples our creativity.
- When we’re happy our productive energy rises by 31 percent.
- Being happy makes you more effective — happy workers make less errors than their unhappy counterparts.
Achor explains that the traditional formula of “I’ll strive to be successful so that I can be happy once I’ve achieved my goals” is wrong. Instead, you have to flip it around. Invest in becoming happy now, so that you can be successful in the future.
In order to help his students and clients apply the principles that he teaches, Achor set out to identify small, simple habits that can be done every day that will increase happiness levels. He uncovered six habits that can be done by anyone–regardless of age–in order to rewire their brain for happiness.
Below you’ll find Achor’s six happiness habits, as well as a method that I developed for making sure that you follow through on the six habits.
The Six Habits that Will Rewire Your Brain For Happiness
Here are the six habits that Achor came up with:
1. Gratitude List.
Every night, spend two minutes writing down three things you’re grateful for that occurred during the last 24 hours. It doesn’t have to be anything profound, but it does have to be specific. For instance, instead of being grateful for your child, be grateful for the big smile and sticky hug that your child gave you that morning.
Due to your brain’s innate negativity bias, you’re usually scanning the environment for threats. However, when your brain knows that it has to come up with three things to be grateful for each night, it will start to do the opposite. It will start scanning the environment for positives.
This brings your brain into better balance. It also retrains your brain so that it will start seeing more possibilities.
Keep in mind that you shouldn’t write down the same three things every night. You want to get your brain to scan the world and notice new things to be happy about. Therefore, make it a rule not to repeat something you’ve already written about.
2. The Doubler.
Take one positive experience from the past 24 hours and spend two minutes writing about the experience. Aim to write down at least four details about the experience.
This is helpful because when you take a moment to remember a positive experience, your brain labels it as meaningful, which deepens the imprint. In addition, it allows you to relive the positive experience–along with the positive feelings that came with it (hence the name, the doubler).
3. The Fun Fifteen.
The effects of daily cardio can be as effective as taking an antidepressant. Hence, one of the six happiness habits is to engage in 15 minutes of a fun cardio activity every day. This includes activities such as gardening, rebounding on a mini-trampoline, and briskly walking your dog.
Achor adds that your brain records exercise as a victory, and this feeling of accomplishment transfers to other tasks throughout the day. It also teaches your brain to believe, “My behavior matters”, which also enhances happiness.
Every day take two minutes to stop whatever you’re doing and concentrate on your breathing. Just focus on your breath moving in and out. Even a short mindful break can lower stress and result in a calmer, happier you.
When Achor got Google employees to stop what they were doing for two minutes a day and just focus on their breath, here’s what happened 21 days later:
- Their accuracy rates improved by 10%;
- Their levels of happiness rose; and
- Their engagement scores rose significantly.
Meditation will rewire your brain and allow it to work more optimistically and successfully.
5. Conscious Act of Kindness.
Being kind to others feels good, and carrying out an act of kindness each day is a great happiness booster.
Achor recommends that at the start of every day you send a short email or text praising someone you know. An added bonus is that it’s very ly that the other person will respond with an appreciate comment about you.
Nonetheless, your act of kindness can be anything:
- Hold the elevator door open for someone.
- When you go on a coffee run ask a co-worker if you can get a coffee for him as well.
- Let someone who seems to be in a hurry cut ahead of you in line.
Even something small and simple giving someone a smile works.
6. Deepen Social Connections.
Our social connections affect our success and health, and even our life expectancy. In addition, having a feeling of social support is vital for happiness. In fact, Achor’s studies show that social connection is the greatest predictor of happiness.
Have some contact with family and friends each day, even if it’s just calling them to chat for two or three minutes, or texting them to meet up for brunch on Sunday.
The Happiness Journal (Free)
Achor explains that if you follow the six habits explained above daily, for 21 days, you’ll be transformed from a pessimist to an optimist. In addition, within 30 days, following these habits will change the neuropathways of your brain and turn you into a lifelong optimist. That’s quite an assertion.
Let’s try it and see if it works, shall we? How? By filling out the Happiness Journal that I’ve created Achor’s six habits. I’m going to share it with you, because I’m just that awesome. The journal will allow you to record your practice of the six happiness habits for thirty days.
Here’s what the journal contains:
- A cover page.
- An instructions page — basically, what you already read above.
- Thirty journal pages — write down the date at the top of each page and read the happiness quote for the day. Then, write down three things you’re grateful for, a positive experience for the day, and your act of kindess for the day. At the bottom of the page there’s space for you to check off if you exercised, meditated, and connected with someone.
Here’s what each journal page looks :
You can download the Happiness Journal, for free, here. And if you’re not currently subscribed to Daring to Live Fully, you can subscribe by clicking here.
Go ahead and rate your current happiness level on a scale from 1 to 10. Then, download the Happiness Journal, print it out, and spend the next 30 days filling it out. At the end of that time, rate your happiness level again.
Did your happiness level go up? If all the scientific data collected by Achor is correct, your answer will a resounding “Yes!”.
Live your best life by adopting the six happiness habits explained above.
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Six Habits of Happy and Successful People
You know who they are — those people who seem to have it all: successful jobs, happy personal lives. You wonder how they got so lucky.
Don’t put it all on luck. If you do, then the only way you can match them is to capture a genie and get three wishes or find the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
Happy, successful people develop habits that lead them in the right direction. If you know what these are, you can pick up some, or all, and make changes in your life. Here are six of those habits of the happy and successful:
1. Be Generous
In 2008, researchers found that Americans who had more money were happier than those with less. Big surprise? Hold on — that’s not the end of the story. Happiness wasn’t linked to personal spending. Those folks with higher incomes were happier only if they bought other people gifts and donated to charities.
More current research has traced this effect to the brain. A 2013 study looked at brain images while participants made charitable donations. Giving seems to activate the same part of the brain that manages desires for food and sex. It’s also the same area that is triggered when people give themselves rewards.
It doesn’t stop there. Another study also found that people who spend money on others are markedly happier than folks who don’t. The amount doesn’t seem to matter — it’s the intention and accomplishment that count.
But it’s not just about money, either. Social science investigations also indicate that giving your time promotes happiness. For instance, students who help friends with homework get an emotional boost.
What’s the connection between giving and happiness? It could be that we get used to possessions, no matter how nice they are. However, the results of generosity can be surprising and spontaneous. Hard to build up a tolerance to that.
2. Get It Done
You’ve probably known someone who always put off an important job until the last minute and then completed it with flying colors. Time pressure seemed to be a friend.
Yeah, most of us aren’t that. If we keep putting something off, it just doesn’t get done. Successful people are typically not procrastinators. They buckle down and do the job.
For instance, research on students in doctoral programs found that procrastination had been a significant problem for many students who dropped out. Students who didn’t drag their feet were better able to deal with time issues and external pressure. These are tremendous skills, considering roughly half of students who enroll in Ph.D. programs never finish.
3. Get Moving
Want to be happier? Get some exercise. It doesn’t have to be excessive or intense, either. Just 20 to 30 minutes of regular low-intensity exercise are ly to reduce the chance of developing depression.
Researchers examined 30 studies spanning 26 years. Twenty-five of them found that exercise wards off depression. During exercise, the body releases chemicals that affect the brain, producing positive, energized and elated feelings.
Exercise will not only make you happier, but it can help make you more successful, too. Consider all the effects exercise has on your body that can help you achieve more. It reduces stress and helps you sleep better. Memory and concentration improve. Overall, you’re more alert.
If you can fit it in, a morning workout can get you ready to face the day. It helps wake you up and get your brain in gear. Even a short walk or some yoga stretches help.
But if you’re not a morning person, don’t use that as an excuse not to exercise. Moving is good for you, no matter when you do it. It’s more important to fit regular exercise in sometime than to drag yourself through a morning routine. If you hate it, you probably won’t continue.
Even if the exercise itself doesn’t thrill you, most people are happier after an exercise session than before it. But sticking with the exercise is necessary, so try to find something that you enjoy — or at least don’t hate too much.
4. Take Your Time
You might think that being both happy and successful means you must work at it 24/7. However, not working sometimes is actually a key to happiness. People who feel pressured by time constraints are less ly to have smiles on their faces.
Research shows this to be a major problem, regardless of whether people are married or employed. Having some time for yourself, without feeling you should be doing something else, can boost happiness.
Perhaps this is connected to the ability to say “no” occasionally when others make demands on your time. It’s not always your responsibility to fill in, fix things and get stuff done.
And maybe some people are trying to find more time for themselves by getting you to pick up the slack. It’s good they recognize free time is an asset, but it’s bad if you help them out and punish yourself.
5. Be Patient
There’s a very powerful long-term research study from Stanford that indicates the importance of delayed gratification. Four- and five-year-olds were faced with a challenge. While alone in a room, they could eat a single marshmallow as soon as they wanted. However, if they waited until the researcher returned, they could get two marshmallows. Only about 30 percent of the kids held out.
So what? So this: The researchers tracked participants throughout their school careers. The children who didn’t wait had more behavior, attention and interpersonal problems. The average SAT scores of kids who delayed gratification were 210 points higher.
People who are more disciplined can push through challenges to get what they really want: success. They can’t control what’s going on around them, but they can control how they react.
6. Sleep, Sleep, Sleep
Adults need seven to eight hours of sleep a night. That’s not happening. Almost one-third of them are getting six hours or fewer. The brain uses sleep periods to get rid of its metabolic wastes. If you don’t let the brain clean out, you’re more ly to feel woozy and have trouble thinking. That’s not going to promote success.
Sleep does, and nightly rest sharpens memory. Successful people know that, and have adopted certain sleep habits that help.
They may also know that a University of California-San Diego study reveals that sleeping an extra hour can increase earnings by 16 percent. For research participants, that averaged out to about $6,000 more per year. That’s getting paid to sleep – count me in!
Don’t try to change your nature overnight. It’ll be overwhelming and discouraging. Pick one habit to start with first — choose something you really believe you can handle. Once you’ve fully adopted it as part of your life, add another habit. Keep going until you’re where you want to be.
You might also choose to bypass some of these habits. That’s OK. Your goal is not to become a carbon copy of another person, but to be a happy and successful you.
This post first appeared at www.punchedclocks.com
What Does Success Really Mean to You? Six Habits for Instant Success
“Success is about creating benefit for all and enjoying the process. If you focus on this & adopt this definition, success is yours.” – Kelly Kim
Do you know someone who is “successful” but completely miserable? I believe this is because they don’t have a clear definition of what success means to them. There are countless ways to define success, and for that reason, before you set any major life goals ask yourself what success means to you.
From deep down inside, really really consider what success means to you. Not the hand-me-down version of what other people want you to do, or what you believe is successful social standards, but your personal definition of what a successful life would be.
I contemplated this question earlier this year and was able to recognize that much of my discontent was coming from a definition of success money, status, and prestige. Not that any of these things are inherently bad, but they just weren’t working for me.
Defining success in these terms was keeping me stuck in a place of lack and insignificance. It was actually getting in the way of growing my wealth and business. I wanted to feel good now instead of waiting until I had a certain amount of money or certain career.
I wanted to appreciate life, live it to the fullest, and contribute something to the world. I wanted to define myself by something deeper than my career and possessions. So I did, and in doing so felt more successful than ever. By feeling more successful I acted more successful and started to “become” more successful.
Nothing really changed except my experience of life, but this is exactly what was needed. You can live a successful life right now! You can enjoy the world while you try to change it. Here are seven suggestions to use as signposts to experience real and lasting success.
1. Have a good time pursuing commitments
We don’t have to work ourselves to death in order to be successful. Really this is the antithesis of success. When we get caught up in all the “have to’s” and “need to do’s” we lose sight of the bigger picture. Success is more about the journey and less about the destination. When life is no longer enjoyable, it’s time to assess the path we’re on and what direction to take.
2. Choose to be happy
You don’t “need” anything to be happy. The ultimate myth about happiness is believing you should place your happiness in things beyond yourself.
People believe that happiness will come along when they get a new care, a new job, or a new relationship. But in the end these external sources of happiness are fleeting. We are responsible for our happiness.
We don’t “feel our circumstances,” we “feel our thinking.” So, let yourself experience happiness by thinking differently about life.
3. Make people more important than fortune or fame
If you knew that today was your last day to live what would you do? I imagine your answer isn’t to spend the day working harder and getting more accomplished.
If today was your last day you would spend time with friends and family, or do something that we have always dreamed of doing.
Why then do we make “working” our biggest value? Because financial and professional success is driving our vision instead of a bigger purpose and mission. We are more ly to reach greater success when we are driven by a deep and burning reason why!
4. Stop gossiping, judging, and complaining
I admire people with a positive, optimistic, and compassionate attitude.
I look up to these type of people because letting-go of judgment is a struggle for me sometimes, despite knowing that judgment and complaining isn’t a successful mindset. Judging and complaining lowers our consciousness.
We begin reacting to life instead of creating and responding to it. Let go of the negativity and success will develop more effortlessly.
“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
5. Stop fretting! Live in the moment
The idea of working ourselves to death isn’t a myth. The word Karōshi is a Japanese term meaning “death by overwork.
” When we are unable to let go of occupational stress we can literally kill ourselves from exhaustion. Don’t be so frantic to amass your wealth and success. Enjoy the moment.
There is really nothing to worry about that you can’t handle. Be mindful and don’t take your work with you everywhere you go.
6. Be a ray of sunshine to others
Turn on the news for just 10 minutes, or talk to someone about current world events and I bet you will get a pile of negativity dumped all over you. Though, occasionally we find people who seem to be above all the fear mongering. They really brighten up our lives. Focus on being a positive presence toward other people. How can you add something positive to the people around you today?
“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, or worn. It is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace & gratitude.” – Denis Waitley
Stop waiting around to decide you are successful. Become successful today. Live a life you’re proud of and commit to enjoying the journey. Decide which of these signposts can help you stay on a positive and uplifted path.
Keystone Habits: Improve All Areas of Your Life with One Small Habit
Not all habits are created equal. Some will have a much bigger effect on your life. These “high return” habits are often called keystone habits, and if you're going to adopt only one new habit, it should be one of these.
Writer Mark Manson describes keystone habits as “compounding habits”:
If you think about building habits as a process of investing in yourself […] you could say that different habits have higher or lower interest rates, therefore making some habits far better initial investments of your energy and discipline than others.
Keystone habits seem any other habit, on the surface at least. The difference is that keystone habits tend to have ripple effects which change your behavior in unexpected ways.
Let's dive into what makes keystone habits so powerful and how you can get started building one.
What Are Keystone Habits?
In architecture, the keystone locks all the other stones into position.
Similarly, keystone habits help hold other good habits in place
A habit of checking email first thing in the morning may or may not be beneficial to you, but it doesn't really affect other areas of your life, such as your well-being or personal relationships. Similarly, a habit of turning into Netflix every night at 8pm probably doesn't have far-reaching beneficial effects.
Just what makes a habit a keystone habit, then? Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, explains that keystone habits change more than just our behavior—they change how we see ourselves:
When researchers look at how people change their habitual behaviors, they find when some changes occur, it seems to set off a chain reaction that causes other patterns to change as well.
The power of a keystone habit draws from its ability to change your self image.
Exercising regularly is a habit many of us want to build to get stronger, look better, and stay healthy.
For many, people this is a keystone habit, because when they exercise regularly, they also make healthier eating choices, procrastinate less, wash their dishes earlier, and even use their credit cards less! Exercising regularly seems to be an ordinary habit, just flossing daily or hitting inbox zero before leaving work for the day. It's the cascading effect it has on other areas of your life that makes exercise a keystone habit.
When you build a habit of exercising every day, apart from improving your health and fitness, you're also creating a new self image—one of a person who exercises regularly or, perhaps even more broadly, of a healthy person.
By starting with action that encourages the self-image we want to have, we subconsciously encourage ourselves to reinforce that new self-image with other behaviors.
Examples of Keystone Habits
Exercise is just one example of a keystone habit
But when it comes to identifying your own keystone habits, that's where things get tricky. Exercise is the main example used by most people who talk about keystone habits, but according to Duhigg, “anything can become a keystone habit if it has this power to make you see yourself in a different way.”
Duhigg mentions some other examples in his book. For instance, children from families who eat dinner together regularly tend to have higher grades, more confidence, and better emotional control. Another interesting example is making your bed every day.
This simple, quick keystone habit has been shown to correlate with “better productivity, a greater sense of well-being, and stronger skills at sticking with a budget.
” Science writer Judy Dutton suggests this might be because “an organized environment can positively impact our mental state,” and making our beds in the morning helps us start the day with a sense of accomplishment.
Manson came up with a list of his own six suggestions for keystone habits, including meditation, reading, writing, socialising, and exercising. Manson says his list of habits “provide a nice foundation for a healthy life in all domains: physically, emotionally, psychologically and socially.”
He also includes cooking, which might not seem an obvious choice at first. But Manson points out that building a habit of cooking for yourself gives you control over what you eat and when. Without the time or knowledge for cooking, we settle for eating quick, easy food which tends to be unhealthy.
And while cooking itself doesn't necessarily affect your health, eating well definitely does. Building a habit of cooking makes it achievable to eat well.
How to Identify Your Keystone Habits
While I don't cook enough to see a huge difference in my eating habits, I do exercise regularly, something I can confirm is definitely a keystone habit for me. Pinpointing how exercise affects me has helped me figure out the clues that point to a keystone habit, so I can identify others.
At first I wasn't exercising every day, but I noticed patterns that correlated to the days I did exercise, and the days I didn't.
The biggest difference was my mood. I felt good after doing a workout, as if I'd accomplished something important. I felt I'd started my day off well, and I felt good about facing everything else I needed to do that day.
I also noticed it was easier to eat a healthy breakfast after I'd exercised. Planning a healthy breakfast ahead of time didn’t stop me grabbing something more convenient and less healthy on days I didn’t workout. But the workout made me want the healthy breakfast I’d planned.
The great thing about these effects is that I didn't have to try hard to be in a good mood, or to improve my breakfast choices. They just happened. I'd found a cascading effect on my behavior that seemed to correlate with the days I started with a workout.
When I realized what made it obvious that exercise was a keystone habit, I was able to look for clues of other keystone habits in my life. The other major one I've found so far is getting up early. Getting up early sets me up for a great day. My mood tends to be better, and I usually get more done during the day, even if I don't start work any earlier than normal.
All of these effects combine to make a much better day for me. And they all seem to relate to simply getting up earlier, which makes it a keystone habit for me.
While exercising, cooking, or getting up early might not be your keystone habits, these examples point to the clues that can help you find your own:
Look for behaviors that have a ripple effect, changing your other behaviors without extra effort. And pay attention to how you see yourself when you do a particular habit. Does it change your self image? Do you feel better when you think of yourself as a person who flosses, a note-taker during meetings, a runner, or a person who meditates?
Changing our self image is the key to building habits that create major life changes for us.
How to Make Your Keystone Habit Stick
The trick to making any habit stick long-term—keystone or not—is ensuring you do it regularly. The more often you do the habit, the more you'll get used to it, and eventually you'll do it without thinking—the definition of a habit.
Keep track of your habit every day
If you’re working on building new habits, it helps to know how often you’re succeeding (or not). There’s a plethora of habit tracking apps available to keep stats on your efforts. A couple of my favorites are Momentum and HabitBull.
But you can do the same thing with just pen and paper, too. A simple way to keep track of your progress is to mark each day you complete your habit on a calendar. The “don't break the chain” method (often wrongly attributed to Jerry Seinfeld) uses a wall calendar and a marker to create a chain of completed days. The longer your chain of successful days, the less ly you are to break it.
An even simpler approach is theXeffect which uses index cards to track habits. On the back of the card, you write down why you want to build a particular habit. On the front, you simply draw six vertical and six horizontal lines to create a grid of 49 squares.
Each squares represents a day, without needing to date them or use a calendar. the Seinfeld method, you cross off a square each time you complete the habit.
When the card is full, you should have a fairly solid habit, at which point you can decide whether you need to repeat the process or not.
The idea of starting small is common among successful habit builders. Behavioral scientist BJ Fogg calls this “Minimum Viable Effort,” and suggests starting here with all new habits. The key, he says, is to do the minimum you can and be consistent in your behavior.
Make it tiny. To create a new habit, you must first simplify the behavior. Make it tiny, even ridiculous. A good tiny behavior is easy to do — and fast.
For example, walking to work or doing squats for five minutes during your lunch break is a better start than trying to run 5 miles every weekday. Once you've built consistency in doing that tiny behavior every day, it's a lot easier to scale up how much you're doing.
Creating consistency is the hardest part, so start there. You could even use a repeating task in your to-do list app—or an automation from a tool Zapier—to nudge you to work on your habit consistently.
Another common suggestion is to make a plan for how and when you'll complete your habit. Coach.
me co-founder Tony Stubblebine says planning ahead is the trick to not getting thrown off by unfamiliar situations.
When building a habit of not eating sugar, Stubblebine suggested the concession stand at the cinema is one of the many environments where not having a plan could throw off your new habit:
When you go to the movies, what do you order? Popcorn or those ice cream dots? You might be on a three-month streak of no sugar and think you've nailed it, then walk up to concession stand and your old movie theater habit of ordering Red Vines takes over.
Because there are so many variable that can affect our ability to stick with new behaviors, Stubblebine says planning ahead is the best way to build up the consistency we need for the habit to stick:
Now is the time for me to decide if I'm going to have birthday cake, not on April 30 when someone passes me a slice of cake. Because I'm not going to be making a good decision then in that moment.
For me, planning when and where I'll complete a new behavior is the difference between building consistency early on and struggling to make progress at all.
If I don't plan a time and place to complete my new habit each day, it tends to not get done.
But finding time in my day to schedule that habit ensures I won't be struggling against deadlines or a busy schedule to do it—it already has a place and time set aside for it.
According to The Power of Habit author Charles Duhigg, habits are comprised of three parts: the cue (what triggers the behavior), the reward (what you get doing the behavior), and the routine (the behavior itself). Planning ahead helps you keep the reward front-and-center, giving you the strength to overpower old cues with the new ones you're working to build for your habit.
Charles Duhigg's How to Change a Habit flowchart
Make It Easy
For my keystone habit of exercise, I've scheduled time to do it and I've started small—I usually do just a 15-minute workout in my living room at around 7am each day. But there are still some days when it seems easier to get on with my workday instead of rolling out my exercise mat and throwing on my workout gear.
I've found that the easier I make it to get started with a new behavior, the fewer reasons I have to not do it. When I make sure my workout clothes are washed, dry, and left out ready for me to put them on, it's harder to find an excuse not to do so.
If I download my workout on my phone the night before, there's no waiting around for it the next morning—another excuse gone.
And waking up half an hour earlier has helped me schedule my workout earlier so it doesn't interfere with my workday—yet another excuse I can't use anymore.
Sometimes I still struggle to get going in the morning. But if I have a longer, 30-minute workout scheduled and I find I'm thinking about skipping exercise altogether because 30 minutes seems too long, I'll just swap it out for a 15-minute workout.
Think about ways you can make your workout—or other keystone habit—easier to do, something Malcolm Gladwell calls the “tipping point.” That's the point at which you overcome resistance and engage in the new behavior.
In a study of college students, fear-based education about tetanus failed to increase the number of students getting tetanus vaccinations. The tipping point came when the education included a map of the campus showing where the health center was.
With that extra information, students no longer had the excuse that they didn't know where to get their shot, and couldn't be bothered looking up that information.
Everything they needed was in front of them, so it suddenly became a lot easier to get a vaccination.
When you find yourself making excuses about why you're not sticking with your new keystone habit, try to find ways to overcome those excuses. Put out any equipment you need before you need it. Set up your environment so it's ready for whatever habit you're trying to build. Get your family or colleagues on board, so they don't block you.
Look for any small way you can overcome resistance in advance, so you don't have any excuses when it comes time to do your new behavior.
Building habits is a long, slow process. It requires some determination in the beginning, as you work on building momentum and making a new behavior habitual, so you don't have to think about it.
But the rewards are overwhelming. Once you've built a strong habit you'll be performing a healthy behavior without even trying. And if you focus on finding and building keystone habits, you'll be getting a ripple effect of better behaviors throughout your life, just from putting effort into that one new habit.
Learn More About Building Productive Habits
Title photo by Kurt:S via Flickr. Walking photo by Emma Simpson