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Build Better Habits

Good habits help us become more efficient in our everyday lives, but bad habits are unsupportive and hold us back from achieving our goals. Research indicates that building tiny habits is the key to building sustainable long-term habits. When you start small, behaviors build up over long periods of time and your ability and likelihood to continue the behavior are very high, regardless of the motivation.

Particularly when it comes to our daily relationship with food, numerous habits – both good and bad – have been formed over the years. Reflect on your personal eating habits and the triggers you see for unhealthy eating. Replace your unhealthy habits with healthier alternatives and reinforce those habits over time. When it comes to building new habits like better food and nutrition behaviors, follow this five-step strategy:

  1. Change your environment.

  2. Start small. Make your habits tiny.

  3. Repeat your habits. Daily.

  4. Pair a new habit with another habit you do every day.

  5. Celebrate your habit.

Now, let’s put it into practice.

  1. Do you seek something sweet as an afternoon snack? Instead of grabbing a candy bar, opt for a piece of fruit first.

  2. Do you notice you eat on-the-go or standing over the kitchen sink for dinner? Mindless eating can lead to overeating. Try sitting down for each of your meals and logging off all your devices to truly focus on what you’re eating.

Practice makes perfect. Forming new habits can be hard, but using this mantra might be helpful is resetting your goals.

After I…(put my plate out for dinner), I will…(add a handful of greens to the plate first).

After I…(crave a sugary treat), I will…(wash a piece of fruit).

Before I…(go to bed), I will…(prepare a well-balanced lunch for the next day).

Once you understand that habits can change, you have the freedom and the responsibility to remake them. Once you understand that habits can be rebuilt, the power of habit becomes easier to grasp and the only option left is to get to work.


How Long Does It Take?

While we’d like to think there’s a magic number (14 days, 50 days, 66 days) to forming habits, the amount of time it takes to build a new healthy habit quite honestly just depends. How quickly (or slowly) you form a habit may depend on the complexity of the habit and your readiness to change.

Stop An Unsupportive Habit

As challenging as it can be to form a new healthy habit, it can be extra challenging to put a stop to unhealthy behaviors that have developed over the course of years. Psychology suggests using mindfulness as a tool to consider why you engage in an unhealthy or unhelpful habit. Think about what triggers prompt the unhealthy habit and reevaluate what you get (or don’t get) out of that particular behavior.

Consider and reflect on why you want to make a change; does the habit reflect your values? If an unhealthy habit is part of an addiction or other mental health condition, you should seek professional treatment as it may be the best way to achieve change.

Some good habits to incorporate into your routine this year:

  1. Eat more slowly and mindfully.

  2. Enjoy breakfast every morning.

  3. Plan your meals ahead of time to ensure you’re enjoying a well-balanced meal.

  4. Go for a short walk each day.