How to Pick Up Good Habits

06/04/2015 09:23 pm ET | Updated Jun 04, 2016
Maxim Kostenko via Getty Images

Most people want to develop good habits like doing yoga before work, eating breakfast and saying "hello" to the elderly neighbor they see each morning. However, intending to pick up such habits and actually performing them are two totally different stories. Sometimes it seems like bad habits, like smoking or eating sweets every day, are easier to keep.

Fortunately, you can alter your behavior and integrate healthy lifestyle choices into your routine. Here are some tips for picking up good habits:

Fit it Into Your Existing Schedule

If your goal is to get up early every morning to jog, but you're a night person, you have an uphill battle ahead of you. Instead of forcing yourself into a new schedule, place your new habits into a pattern that already works for you.

In the case of the night owl turned fitness guru, consider running after work instead of before it. Take a look at your current schedule and see where that new habit of yours will fit.

Replace the Bad with the Good

Some of the habits you want to end or change take up prime slots in your daily schedule. Make the most of that situation by switching them with good habits. For instance, if you like to eat a bowl of ice cream after dinner while watching TV, get rid of the extra sugar and eat healthy alternatives.

Cut up an apple and dip it in peanut butter. Or, nom on homemade real-fruit popsicles -- you'll satisfy your sweet tooth, but in a way that won't spike your blood sugar and negatively affect your weight.

Think of it this way: You're finding better ways to address a need. Most habits form because you needed something (a way to relax, for example). Your good habits can and should address those needs -- that way, you're more likely to stick to them and avoid sliding into your old ways.

Choose Small Commitments

Initially, taking on huge new habits is daunting and could cause you to fall off the wagon. For instance, waking up at 5 a.m. to run when you normally get up at 7 a.m. is a big undertaking. Start small. Commit to waking up earlier -- that's it. You may end up running anyway!

Simplify Your Choices

The more decisions you have to make in a day, the more tired you become mentally. That means that by the end of the day, you don't have the energy for decision-making. Being drained makes slipping into old, bad habits and avoiding working on new ones easier, so pare down your options.

For example, only stock your apartment with healthy snacks. When you come home after work, you won't have the option to reach for sugary treats.

Set Up Your Space for Success

Your apartment is where you spend most of your time, and it's the most comfortable environment you occupy. For this reason, it can be your greatest ally or enemy. Make sure your apartment becomes the former by arranging your space around your new habit.

Only store healthy food in the fridge, keep your blinds open so morning sunlight wakes you up or designate a spot for exercising. No matter what good habit you want to form, you can devise a way to ensure your apartment makes the process easier.

Find a Friend

Forming habits is easier when you have an accountability partner, someone who will kick you into gear. While not all habits are ideal for working with another person, many are. For instance, going to the gym, cooking healthy meals and saving money are all doable when you have a friend, roommate, or significant other who will try to do the same.

Schedule check-ins in which you talk about your progress and motivate each other. Who knows, pumping up your friend may also boost your enthusiasm.

Introducing good habits that benefit your life may be challenging, but it's doable. Use these tips to get your habit to stick.