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Building Health Habits: The Path to Initiation and Perseverance

By Laurie Marbas, MD, MBA

Initiating and maintaining good health habits often feels like a Herculean task. We're all familiar with the rush of enthusiasm when starting something new, only to see it wane in a few weeks, leaving us back at square one. So, how can one not only start a good health habit but also ensure they stick to it? Dive in to discover a more sustainable approach.

1. Understanding the Importance of Habit Formation

Habit Over Willpower: Willpower can be limited and draining. Habits, once formed, require less mental energy, making actions almost automatic and easier to maintain.

Long-term Health Impacts: Consistency in healthy habits, rather than short-lived intense efforts, leads to sustainable well-being and reduces the risk of numerous health issues.

2. Laying the Groundwork for New Habits

Start Small: Don't overhaul your life overnight. Begin with manageable changes, like a 10-minute daily walk or adding a vegetable to each meal.

Anchor New Habits to Established Ones: Link your new health habit to an existing routine. For instance, if you have a morning coffee ritual, follow it with a short meditation session.

Environment Matters: Set up your surroundings to support your habit. Want to drink more water? Keep a water bottle on your desk.

3. Strategies for Habit Perseverance

Track Progress: Use apps, journals, or charts to keep an eye on how you're doing. The satisfaction of seeing a habit streak can be motivating.

Positive Reinforcement: Reward yourself for milestones. If you've been consistent with a workout routine for a month, perhaps treat yourself to new workout gear.

Accountability Partners: Sharing your journey with a friend can make you more accountable. It can be easier to stick to a walking habit when you have someone waiting for you.

Embrace Slip-ups: Understand that no journey is perfect. If you miss a day or indulge occasionally, don't get disheartened. Instead, take it in stride and resume.

4. Keeping Habits Fresh and Engaging

Evolve and Upgrade: As you grow more comfortable with a habit, consider elevating it. If you've been walking daily, maybe introduce short jogging intervals.

Educate Yourself: The more you know about a habit's benefits, the more committed you'll likely remain. Regularly read up on the advantages of your chosen habits.

Mix It Up: If a routine becomes monotonous, switch things up. Try a new exercise class, explore different healthy recipes, or change your walking route.

5. Conclusion

Building and sticking to health habits isn't about bursts of motivation but more about understanding the nuances of habit formation, setting oneself up for success, and remaining resilient through the process. With patience, perseverance, and the right strategies, you can transform fleeting intentions into lasting health rituals.


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