Introduction to the Wellness Habits Project

The Wellness Habits Project is an opportunity for you to start incorporating new habits into your life to improve your physical health, mental health, relationships, and community.

Each habit is small, achievable, and easily combined with other habits to help you develop new routines.  Choose the habits that work for you, modify them as you like, or develop your own wellness habits.  Over time, your new habits will combine into a healthier lifestyle.

These proposed habits are ideas based on information currently available to the public; they are not advice. We do not know what your unique needs are, and what benefits one person may harm another. By engaging in this project, you agree that you will always talk to your own medical provider, mental health provider, and other expert professionals about any new habits you plan to try or adopt and receive their approval before getting started.

How to Make New Habits Stick

Adopt It: Do It and Reward Yourself!

Brains typically engage in new behaviors if it believes it will be rewarded for the behavior. So let’s start by teaching your brain that this new habit will lead to rewards.

Learn Why It’s Good for You

A big part of adopting a new habit is to understand why the behavior may be good for you. If your brain believes that a behavior will have a beneficial outcome for you (a reward!), you will be more likely to want to engage in that behavior, even if it is difficult.

So first, learn why your new habit will be beneficial and think about all the good things that may happen if you do this habit every day. For example, let’s say you want to start exercising: “If I exercise, it will help me feel stronger and more powerful. With this new strength, I will be able to do things by myself. I’ll be healthier, and I’ll probably live longer. I’ll look better, which means I may be more attractive to potential mates, and I’ll feel more confident. People will notice my confidence and treat me with more respect. I’ll feel a greater sense of importance about myself, and that will help me to feel that my life is meaningful.” And all of that is worth the small price of doing some push-ups.

Reward Yourself

Immediately after completing a new behavior that you want to adopt as a habit, reward yourself! By giving yourself a reward immediately after starting a new behavior, your brain will start to associate the behavior with positive consequences and will be more likely to adopt it as a new habit. (For you science lovers, this is called operant conditioning.)

However, don’t just give yourself any reward. You don’t want to reward yourself for jogging for 5 minutes by eating a cookie. Your reward should ideally be beneficial in the short-term and the long-term.  For example, rewards could include

  • saying mindfully to yourself, “I did something good for myself,” and letting yourself feel pride;
  • posting your accomplishment on social media;
  • doing something you enjoy on a typical day, such as indulging in your favorite coffee or tea.

Adapt It: Customize the New Habit to Work for You

Before you get started, it is important to understand two important concepts.

  1. These suggestions are based on potential benefits for the average person.
  2. No single person is “average”.

The idea of “average” is a concept in statistics that we use to try to get a general picture of a situation (e.g. the average income, the average wake-up time, etc.). It’s an excellent tool, but it doesn’t describe any specific person. Why is this important to know? Because, no single suggestion will work for everyone. Since everyone is different, everyone will have different needs and outcomes. There is no such thing as a “perfect habit”, “perfect routine”, “perfect way”, or “perfect outcome”. 

Embrace your uniqueness and adapt the suggested habit, so it will work for you.

Attach It: Do It After Something You Already Do as a Habit

Link that new habit to your old habit by doing it immediately after the routine you already have.  By adding the habit to an already established routine, your brain will use the routine as a trigger to do the habit automatically. Before you know it, you’ll be doing it on auto-pilot. No will-power required.

Let’s say you brush your teeth every morning, and you want to start a new habit of putting on sunscreen.  Put on that sunscreen right after you finish brushing your teeth; then go on with your day. Over time, you will automatically put on sunscreen without even thinking about it.

Get Started

  1. Browse through the habits.
  2. Pick out the ones you want to start.
  3. Decide how frequently you want to add new habits to your life.
    I recommend adding 1 new habit every week, but if you feel ready to adopt 2 or 3 per week, give it a try.
  4. Adapt each habit to your unique needs.
  5. Attach your new habit to something you already do daily.
  6. Start your new habit today (or as soon as possible).
    The longer you delay, the less likely you are to start this habit at all.
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