5 ways to adopt a healthy habit that actually sticks


In today’s world, information telling us how to create positive daily habits is everywhere. So, where exactly should we start?


From the moment we wake up to when we go to bed, human beings are creatures of habit.

In fact, habits account for around 45% of our behaviours on any given day, research suggests. That’s without us even noticing.

However, building healthy habits that last is not easy. It takes time and patience, and knowing where to begin can be the hard part.

So, what is a habit? James Clear, best known for his New York Times bestseller Atomic Habits, explains: “Habits are the small decisions you make and actions you perform every day.”

Adopting a new habit not only makes us feel good, but also helps to protect us from health problems and encourage a healthier lifestyle, according to the National Institute of Health.

According to a recent study, known as the Habit Index, conducted by Vitality and the London School of Economics, it takes between two to three and a half months to form a habit, with most people establishing a habit after 10 weeks.

Here’s our step-by-step guide exploring how to successfully adopt a healthy habit that can work for you.

It's never too late to start

According to the Habit Index findings, the positive impact of habit formation actually increases with age, highlighting that it's never to late to adopt a new healthy habit. 

Moderate levels of physical activity, such as brisk walking or riding a bike, can be particularly good for people 65 and over, lowering their mortality risk up to 59%.

According to the study of Vitality members, elder individuals who formed healthy habits lowered their chance of needing to go to hospital by a higher percentage than those who were younger.

Start small

Motivation tends to come and go, so a habit that requires little effort is much easier to embed into our daily lives.

A good place to start is writing down the things you wish to achieve daily that don’t take up much of your time and energy.

These might include aiming to do 10,000 steps, completing five squats, or writing down three things you’re grateful for each day.

After starting small, we encourage you to increase these goals over time and remember to take note of the incremental gains this is bringing over time.

Wipe the slate clean

There's no better way to shake off good habits than to dial out the bad.

Removing the activities that can steer you towards bad habits is a great way to build better ones.

For example, if you find yourself on your phone immediately before sleep - or first thing when you wake up - placing it on charge in another room is one life-hack that can help reduce screen-time and improve sleep quality.

Get into a routine

One way to make a healthy habit stick is to get into a rhythm with it.

Being specific about where and when a certain goal can fit into your routine is key. For example, when joining a gym, is there a specific time of the day that can work best for you and a particular day?

Removing barriers to entry and ensuring we’ve carved out the time that’s needed will give us the greatest chance of success.

Check in with yourself

Tracking your progress and celebrating the small wins are so important. It’s what keeps you motivated and ready to tackle any challenges you might experience.

Two ways you can record this are through journaling or using a habit-tracker, such as the popular daily planner and goal tracking app Habit Tracker, which will help you every step of the way.

And, if you find yourself wandering off track, that’s ok, too.

It would be nice to be able to skip the hard work and experience the benefits straight away, but by being patient and dealing those times you do fall out of step can often be the most rewarding part of the journey.

Keep reminding yourself why you’re investing time and effort into that habit. A good way to do this is by leaving post-it notes around your house, or on your bathroom mirror, so you can be reminded of why you are committing to this habit.

Enlist a pal

Having one person, or a network or friends, you can lean on for support and words of encouragement are invaluable.

Sharing moments, whether they’re highs or lows, is incredibly beneficial for your mental health and improves your mood.

Not only does it contribute to forming new habits but motivates you to exceed them.

For example, if you would like to increase your daily number of steps, doing this with a friend can bring out your competitive side and spur you on to work harder.

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Ready for more?

If you are successful in creating a healthy habit and you’re feeling ready to take on more, start to think about what’s next.

Otherwise known as ‘habit stacking’ or ‘habit laddering’, slowly look to incorporate a new activity on top of the other by following this process above and keep it simple to avoid feeling overwhelmed, stressed and burnt out with too much on your plate.

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Vitality rewards

At Vitality, we encourage our members to make small positive lifestyle choices that make a big impact. That’s why we offer partner benefits and rewards through the Vitality Programme.

Find out more by downloading the Vitality app or visit vitality.co.uk.