Develop Daily Habits for Health with One Simple Tip: Habit Stacking
Change can be challenging, especially when it comes to developing new habits. We all practice daily habits like brushing our teeth in the morning or checking the mail after work. Some of us even have specific habits for health. Things like going to the gym every morning, finding ways to incorporate more fiber into our diet or swapping sugar laden store bought smoothies for homemade smoothies.
Whether you want to adopt habits of successful people, create good habits for health or ditch bad habits for health, there is one simple tool that can help you create habits for success and health - habit stacking.
Habit Stacking and the Power of Healthy Habits
Habit stacking is a strategy used to group together small changes into everyday habits to help create a daily routine. The key to developing healthy habits through the use of habit stacking is to treat a habit stack like one single action as opposed to a series of separate individual tasks.
For example, if your dentist recommends flossing more, but flossing is your least favorite oral hygiene task, use habit stacking to add flossing into your oral hygiene routine. Before you go to bed, place a pack of dental floss next to your toothbrush. Then, when you wake up in the morning and go to grab your toothbrush, you see the pack of dental floss, which acts as a trigger and reminds you to floss your teeth before you brush.
By coupling healthy habits with habits you already have established into your daily routine, you can ditch bad habits and replace them with some of the best habits for health. By employing the strategy of habit stacking, you won’t have to make note of which habits to track because you are simply adding health habits to things you already do each and every day.
If you are interested in abandoning some of the worst habits for health and replacing them with better daily habits for health, here are some of the seven habits of highly effective people that can help you live a more mindful life. You can incorporate one or all of these into your daily routine so you can change your habits through the simple strategy of habit stacking.
Tip: If you want to learn more on how to create good habits for health, listen to this podcast episode from NPR and learn more about habits, how they form and how to break them.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
#1 Be Mindful
One of the seven habits of highly effective people is being mindful. Being mindful can be a challenge, especially when we are either thinking about what we just did or what we still need to do, but being mindful has some benefits. It can help boost mood, improve memory and even reduce stress. Researchers define mindfulness as moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience that is free of judgement. It’s a state and not a trait. One of the easiest ways to be more mindful is by exploring various disciplines that can help cultivate more mindfulness such as meditation, Tai Chi or yoga.
Habit Stacking Action Step: An easy way to be more mindful is by focusing on the present task at hand, which means no multitasking. One of the best activities to avoid multitasking is washing the dishes. (Unless you really want to risk grabbing for your phone when your hands are full of soap!) The next time you put on a pair of rubber kitchen gloves to wash the dinner dishes, use that as a trigger to focus on being mindful of the present moment, which is one of the best daily habits for health.
#2 Drink Water to Stay Hydrated
A second habit of highly effective people is drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated. This is especially a good morning habit for health. After sleeping 6-9 hours, our bodies need water to refresh and replenish our systems. Instead of drinking basic bottled water, reach for a fiber-infused flavored water. Not only will you be starting your day well hydrated, you will also be enjoying a serving of fiber, which can help keep you satiated until breakfast.
Habit Stacking Action Step: Place a bottle of hellowater® on your bedside table or night stand. Then, when you wake up in the morning, you will have a visual trigger of the bottle of hellowater® to remind you to drink up. That’s what Sally did to change her health!
#3 Eat a Whole Foods Diet
Eating a diet teeming with real, whole foods is one of the best habits for health. Avoiding foods with questionable ingredients and focusing on food from the purest source, Mother Earth, is an especially good habit for health.
Here are some other good food habits for health that you can incorporate into your lifestyle:
- Avoid refined sugar
- Consume more plant-based sources of protein
- Drink one extra serving of water a day every day
- Enjoy 7-10 servings of fruit and vegetables per day
- Find creative substitutes for unhealthy foods
- Include greens in your meals
- Incorporate more whole grains into your diet
- Limit alcohol
- Plan your meals each week
- Reduce intake of processed meats and red meat
- Replace diet soda or soda with alkaline water or fiber-infused flavored water
- Start your day off with a healthy breakfast
Habit Stacking Action Step: A super simple way to eat more mindfully is by starting your morning off with a fiber filled breakfast to help keep you satiated until your next meal. After you finish mindfully washing the dinner dishes, take five minutes to whip up a delicious breakfast to enjoy the next morning. Now that’s a good morning habit for health that’s tasty too!
#4 Make Time for Daily Movement
One of the best habits for health and fitness is to make time for daily movement. Head outdoors with a ten minute walk or get creative and use furniture or stairs as makeshift gym equipment. Incorporate balance exercises, find ways to work your muscles and practice proper posture. The possibilities for exercise are endless! When making time for daily movement, choose something you enjoy, that way you are more likely to stick with it every day.
Habit Stacking Action Step: After a meal, go for a leisurely stroll around the block. Fresh air and sunshine will feel refreshing after you eat a delicious and nutritious meal. Use the conclusion of the meal as a trigger to head outside for a walk or if it’s helpful, set a daily alarm on your phone to remind you to move. Another easy way to move more? Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
#5 Manage Stress
There are good and bad habits for health and one of the worst habits for health is engaging in activities that cause stress, which is why one of the seven habits of highly effective people is to manage stress. Make a list or think of the things that cause stress in your life. Some examples may include going on social media or watching the news too much. Instead of engaging in stressful activities, maintain good habits for health by replacing unhealthy habits with something more positive.
Habit Stacking Action Step: If mindlessly scrolling social media or watching the news for too long at night is causing you stress, limit the amount of time you spend consuming this information. Set a limit on your phone to minimize the amount of time you spend on social media apps or keep a book next to the TV remote so instead of grabbing the television remote after dinner, you’ll reach for a good read instead.
#6 Practice an Attitude of Gratitude by Counting Your Blessings
One of the best habits for a health program is practicing an attitude of gratitude by counting your blessings. Start the morning or end the day by making a mental list, or a physical list, of five things you are grateful for that day. It can be something small like enjoying a hot cup of coffee or crushing a work assignment you’ve been working hard on.
Habit Stacking Action Step: Place a notebook on your bedside table next to your bottle of hellowater® so when you wake up in the morning or end the day, you can make note of five things you are grateful for. If writing in a notebook isn’t your thing, set a reminder on your phone for the morning, afternoon or evening to remind yourself to mentally list five items of gratitude.
#7 Sleep Well
There aren’t many things better than a solid night’s sleep and many of us would really like to get more sleep each night. Instead of saying you will get more rest, be realistic and take steps to actually clock quality sleep by creating a nighttime routine.
Curl up with a cup of hot tea (caffeine free) and a good book, enjoy a warm epsom salt bath or soothing shower to wash away the day, power down all devices one hour before bed (yes that includes the television), take a few deep breaths to calm the nervous system. try some light stretching or gentle yoga practice before climbing into bed or write in your gratitude journal.
Habit Stacking Action Step: A super simple way to clock more quality zzz’s is by hitting the hay earlier each night. Instead of watching two episodes of your favorite television program, only watch one episode and when that episode ends, use it as a trigger to begin your nighttime routine so you can get to bed 30 minutes earlier each night.
Some other habits of highly effective people include:
- Building community
- Getting screened by your healthcare provider
- Learning something new
- Maintaining brain health
- Not smoking
- Weighing yourself every week
Change doesn’t have to be challenging, especially when it comes to developing new habits. Adopt these seven habits of highly effective people to create habits for success and health by using the strategy of habit stacking with these simple tips.