How to Build Good Habits and Change any Negative Behavior in Your Life


Your habits define you. Most of your life experience is determined by actions you take without thinking, which are part of your daily routine. The bad news is that many people become prisoners of destructive habits that prevent them from moving forward.

But just as a bad habit can lead an individual to failure, any positive habit you form will work to your benefit automatically. And although it may be difficult at first, once your new habit becomes part of your routine, you will be able to obtain wellness, advance in your studies, be productive, and persist until you achieve your highest goals in life. 

Stay with me, ’cause today I’ll share with you 9 steps that will allow you to form any new positive habit in your life, and eliminate a bad habit that could represent an obstacle for you.

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Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

About 43% of what we do every day, are repetitive, automatic actions that we perform while we’re thinking about something else. That’s what habits are. A habit is a kind of shortcut to repeating what we did in the past that worked for us and gave us some reward.

But how do you make good habits? And more importantly, how do you make them stick?

Creating a new positive habit can be challenging and can require several attempts. But the key is to start with a positive action that you can repeat every day for as long as it takes until you succeed in doing it automatically and effortlessly.

Early in her academic career, psychologist Wendy Wood noticed that her fellow graduate students struggled to meet projects and deadlines, even though many of them were among the brightest in the group. Their intelligence, talent, and motivation didn’t seem to be enough. Willpower didn’t seem to be the problem either, as their classmates were willing and able to change. This is how she has spent the last three decades searching for answers and recently wrote a book called: “Good Habits, Bad Habits: The Science of Making Positive Changes that Stick.”, in which she details the most relevant ideas from her research.

Some of the concepts we will explore here are based on Wendy Wood’s scientific research. Because having a better understanding of how habits shape and drive your behavior can help you make a positive change to achieve your goals, and enjoy your life more.

1. Define a new habit based on your goals.

Before you start working on a new habit, you should make sure it’s in line with the goals you want to achieve. This will make it easier for you to maintain the necessary motivation and persistence. Imagine that you have the purpose of stay fit and have better cardiovascular health, and then decide to get into the habit of jogging or walking at a steady pace for 20 minutes every day. This habit is directly connected to an important goal, and in this way, you are much more likely to succeed in maintaining it.

When you set out to establish a new habit, ask yourself: What are the benefits of forming this new habit? How will doing it for months or years improve my life?

Clearly state the benefits and reasons for your new habit so that you can stay motivated for as long as it takes. This way, every time you lose your motivation to keep going, you can think of the positive results you will achieve with persistence.

If you’ve tried repeatedly to make a new habit without success, you can start small, even if you really need to make significant changes. Start by taking small achievements that will increase your chances of success. For example, if you decide to stop eating fried, fatty, and sugary foods, you may have trouble giving up all of them at once. But, if you start by replacing one category at a time, it will be easier for you to make a progressive and permanent change.

All habits take time to establish. At the beginning of something new, it’s natural to feel very enthusiastic, and it’s common for people to make the mistake of wanting to make very drastic changes, only to give up after a few weeks. For this reason, even if you feel quite motivated or anxious to make a habit, remember that a gradual change will be much easier to maintain in the long run.

2. Be aware of the good habits you would like to form.

Part of the reason some people have trouble forming new positive habits is because they live on autopilot and don’t think about the things they are doing. So by becoming more aware of your behavior, you will be able to make the changes you need to make the habit you want to have.

For example, if you want to get into the habit of going to the gym every morning, think about what’s holding you back. How does your usual morning routine look like? What do you do with your time when you don’t go to the gym?

The next time you find yourself going on autopilot and falling back into bad habits, review your behavior and feelings, and let go of what’s holding you back.

The following are some of the habits that can give you the best results for a healthy and positive lifestyle that brings you closer to success:

  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Start an exercise routine that is right for you.
  • Practice gratitude.
  • Commit to excellence in what you do.
  • Finish what you start.
  • Handle money wisely.
  • Respect other people and the environment.
  • Practice good hygiene.
  • Always tell the truth!
  • Develop the habit of reading.
  • Be punctual.
  • Be disciplined.

These are just a few examples. What other habits do you consider vital for success in life? Share with us.

3. Use “friction” to your advantage.

Wendy explains that if you want an action to become a habit, you must reduce friction. And if you’re going to get rid of a bad habit, you must increase friction. This has been proven by several scientific studies. Friction refers to adding obstacles to reduce bad habits and removing impediments to create good ones.

Try to stay away from objects, places, and people that tempt you to fall into a bad habit. Because habits are acts that we do almost without thinking, it is much easier to remove the stimulus than to stop a habit by using willpower only.

As you can see, changing your perspective on self-control can help you regain your sense of self-worth and be kind to yourself. This attitude will give you a sense of freedom. You just have to modify your environment to encourage positive habits and avoid falling into bad ones, instead of continually condemning yourself by saying, “Oh no, I’ve done this again that I didn’t want to do anymore. I’m a mess!”

Some people claim that they have a lot of self-control and willpower. But when they fail, they feel like a failure.

In several studies, it has been found that when a person is tired, distracted, or overwhelmed, his ability for self-control is considerably diminished, and they come back to their habits, whether good or bad. Most of us like to think that our self-control is always steady and will help us achieve our goals, when in fact that’s not always true.

You can rely less on willpower if you modify your environment as much as possible, using friction to your advantage. If the first thing you do when you get home and sit down on the couch is turn on the TV, hide the remote control before you leave, and place an exciting book on the couch. Changing your environment in this way will make it easier to break bad habits.

4. Ask a friend for support.

When it comes to forming good habits, friends can be a great source of emotional support, which is essential for staying motivated and persistent. Telling a friend about your goal can put social pressure on you to meet it.

It’s not about telling everyone about your plans or bragging about something you don’t have yet.

It’s about sharing your progress in a particular goal with a trusted friend so that you can have a stronger commitment that helps you stay motivated.

Perhaps your friend also has a habit that he wants to form, and you can follow up on his progress too. Just make sure that the friend you choose is someone you respect and someone who respects you.

And you can get even better results if you find a person who wants to form the same new habit with you, together.  That way, when one of you is about to fail, the other person will provide the motivation and commitment needed to go running together, make healthier food choices, practice gratitude, or whatever habit you’re both trying to establish.

5. Replace a bad habit with a good one.

All the habits you have right now, whether good or bad, are in your life for a reason and are part of your routine. So when you identify a bad habit that you want to break, it doesn’t help to focus too much of your attention on trying to break it. It’s best to make some changes in your routine to incorporate a different habit that can take its place, and then the old habit will be easier to break.

Almost all bad habits have a “good one” opposite, which you can focus on. For example, to avoid unhealthy snacking, try to keep an apple on hand at all times; to stop drinking soda, carry a bottle of natural water with you throughout the day.

Choose a substitute for the bad habit you want to break and make a plan to visualize how you will respond when you find yourself in the situation that previously triggered the bad habit.

6. Define the best time to study and work.

The morning is the best time of day to exercise your willpower, self-control, and creativity. Think of willpower as a phone battery: you charge it at night while you sleep, and you wake up with a full battery in the morning. That’s how you can use your willpower to eat healthy food, be productive at work, organize and clean up, among other priority tasks you can plan for the early hours of the day.

Also, some research has found that if you live with other people, particularly children, you rely less on habits in general, simply because of the disruption other people cause in your life. That’s why it’s important to find the right time and a place where you really have control. It may be at 6:00 in the morning when the children are still asleep. This is an excellent time to establish your new habit of studying, writing, or exercising.

As a student, the temptation to open social media apps or watch television is higher when you stay up an hour before bed to study than if you choose to get up an hour earlier and study first thing in the morning.

Whatever your case, find the time of day when you’re most able to focus and be productive; and plan your habit for that time.

Connecting your new habit with an existing practice can also help you not to forget it and make it part of your routine more quickly. Always carry out your new habit after some other event or action that triggers it, every day in the same order. If you want to start meditating, you can do it at night right after you brush your teeth. If you’re going to start stretching and taking deep breaths, you can integrate them into your routine right after showering. And if you want to get into the habit of going to the gym every morning, you can put your workout clothes and sneakers by your bed the night before.

7. Implement healthy habits that will improve your quality of life.

The most important habits you can acquire are those that help you stay healthy because by having energy and good health, you will be able to focus on developing more and more favorable habits in other areas of your life.

A habit that many people have neglected lately, but that is vital to maintain health, is to sleep well.

A lot of recent research is finding that sleep deprivation negatively affects health and quality of life. Not sleeping well can cause moodiness, memory problems, and difficulties with thinking and focusing. Besides, lack of rest can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure, and a weak immune system. To find out if you’re sleeping well, look at how you’re feeling during the day. Do you feel rested, alert, and ready to function well during the day? Or do you feel sleepy and tired? Most adults should aim for seven to eight hours of sleep each night.

Some habits that can help you improve the quality of your sleep are:

  • Establishing a specific schedule for sleeping and waking up each day.
  • Create regular rituals that you carry out every night before going to sleep.
  • Take a 10-minute walk in the evening.
  • Stop using electronic devices one hour before bedtime.
  • Do not watch TV, work, or use your cell phone while lying in bed.
  • Exercise regularly and drink plenty of water throughout the day, among other tips.

Eating a balanced breakfast every day is another good habit that will help you stay healthy and have more energy. Also, if you start the day with a healthy breakfast, you tend to eat better in other meals.

Little by little, you can incorporate more healthy habits into your daily routine, such as exercising, practicing meditation, deep breathing, or controlling your emotions. Start with small intervals, such as running for 10 minutes, and as you gain some progress, you can make gradual increments, increasing to 15 and then 20 minutes after a couple of weeks of conditioning.

8. Persist for as long as necessary.

Forming a new habit is a process that can take a long time, from a few weeks to several months, so be patient with yourself and work on establishing one habit at a time.

Scientific evidence suggests that it can take two to three months to form a simple habit, to the point where you do something so automated that you don’t have to think about it, you just do it.

You are likely to encounter several obstacles along the way, so be prepared and understand that they are part of the process of creating new habits. It’s good to remember that even if you stumble along the way, it doesn’t mean you will fail. If one day you don’t take your daily walk, don’t be discouraged. Acknowledge that you just had a bad day and do your walk the next day.

Add rewards to help reinforce your good habits. It can be as simple as learning to enjoy the fresh air on your face while jogging, or it can be listening to your favorite music while you’re doing some activity. Finding a way to enjoy the task will make it easier to start any habit and motivate you to continue.

Keeping track of your daily progress will also help you stay motivated and persistent even when things don’t go according to your plan. You can use a diary or a mobile application to record how often you keep a habit, which will make you feel satisfied when you see the weeks, months, or years of progress you have made.

9. Seek professional help when necessary.

If you notice that a bad habit or vice is seriously affecting your life, there are organizations and programs focused on fighting addictions. You can go to a therapist or doctor for advice and the best strategy to follow in your particular case.

Overcoming an addiction like drugs or alcohol requires professional help. And if life’s circumstances have led you to be in such an unfavorable situation, you’re not the only person in the world who has that problem. Ask for the support you need to get through it. Your future self will thank you.

Almost all healthy habits have positive results that you can enjoy in the future. Visualize yourself enjoying the benefits of leaving a bad habit behind and creating a good habit in your life, and get moving. Take the time to pat yourself on the back and celebrate any progress you make, no matter how small it is.

What are some of the habits that you would like to create in your life to have more well-being and happiness? Share with us!

Forming a good habit can be challenging, but it’s worth the effort because positive habits will allow you to reach any goal.

As human beings, we need time and effort to make any change in our behavior. So it is best to be patient and keep our eyes on the process for the long term.

Doing a positive action for the first time requires intention, training, and a lot of effort. But by repeating the action long enough, you will need less willpower and mental attention to carry it out; because the activity will become an automatic response to the time of day, the situation, or the environment.

Invest the necessary mental energy to start a new positive habit today, with a commitment to maintaining it over the long term. The gradual and constant change you will achieve will make you feel so satisfied and motivated that you will leave behind any negative aspects of your past, and you will be able to concentrate on enjoying your present and building a better future.

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