How to Change a Habit for Good
We all know areas we could improve: eating better, exercising more, drinking more water and so on. But if we know what to do to live a healthy lifestyle, then why is it so hard to actually do it?
It all comes down to habits. Our brains rely on habits because they’re repetitive and easy. An existing habit doesn’t require much thought, but building a new, healthier habit does, so our brains naturally want to resist that change.1 This often means falling back on old habits—even the ones we know aren’t good for us, like hitting a drive-thru instead of cooking a healthy meal or grabbing a soda instead of drinking a glass of water.
But just because our brains don’t like change, doesn’t mean change isn’t possible or worthwhile. Even though it’s hard, anyone can build healthier habits. It just takes patience, dedication and the courage to start:
1. Find the “Why”
You may know what you want to change, but make sure you also ask yourself why you want to change. Studies have shown that goals are easier to reach when they’re specific and self-motivated.2 Try to focus on what you want to achieve and why.
For example, instead of saying, “I should go to the gym more,” think about why you want to work out more often. Maybe working out helps you destress and gives you more energy throughout the day. Or maybe you want to be able to comfortably run around with your kids or try a bike tour on your next vacation. Find the reason behind your goal and let that motivate you.
2. Make a Plan
Once you know what healthy habit you want to build and why, you’ll need a practical way to do it, so craft a plan. Start with small, achievable goals that are easily quantifiable. If you want to make a habit of drinking more water, for example, then set a specific goal like drinking a glass of water with each meal.
To stay on top of your new habit, writing down your plan and tracking your progress can help. Try keeping a journal, creating a calendar or using an app specific to your new habit. If you’re trying to drink more water, using a printable water tracker like the one below is a great way to visualize your goals and celebrate your progress.
3. Test Your Plan
After creating your plan, it’s time to act on it. Consider the first week a “test” phase. You probably won’t perfectly stick to your plan right away, and you may even run into some unexpected roadblocks. That’s totally normal! Because this is just a test, you can’t fail. Most new habits take around 30 days to put into regular practice and can take 6 months or more to become second nature.2,3 Be kind and forgiving to yourself early on. It takes time, but you’ve got this.
4. Assess and Adjust
Reflect on your test week. What was hard? What was easy? Did you achieve your initial goal or do you need to start smaller? Is your “why” still meaningful? Determine what worked and what didn’t and adjust your plan as needed. Once you’ve found a plan that’s achievable, stick to it. Consistency will turn your plan into a habit.
One healthy habit tends to lead to more healthy habits. Whatever you want to achieve—whether it’s getting fit, eating better or getting that promotion—drinking more water might be the right place to start. After all, water is the invisible nutrient that’s keeping our brains and our bodies going.4 So make a habit of drinking more water with the help of a Primo water dispenser, and start building even more good habits, one glass at a time.
1Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2019, April 24). We Know What to Do. Why Don’t We Do It? Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/we-know-what-to-do-why-dont-we-do-it/art-20454742
2Harvard University. (2021, July 20). Why Behavior Change is Hard – and Why You Should Keep Trying. Harvard Health. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/why-its-hard-to-change-unhealthy-behavior-and-why-you-should-keep-trying
3Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2019, October 5). Change an Unhealthy Habit? Yes, You Can! Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/change-an-unhealthy-habit-yes-you-can-heres-how/art-20457587
4Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2020, October 14). How Much Water Do You Need to Stay Healthy? Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256.