11 Tips to Master Habit Making

1. Align your habits with your values.

Look into the deeper reasons why you want to form a habit. Ambivalence is common. If you weren’t ambivalent, you probably already would have formed that habit. Knowing your core values helps define and shape your world, from the inside out.  

2. Remember that habits don’t equate to “self-control.” 

Look for ways to make it easier to repeat desired actions. Recognize even the small steps toward forming your desired habit as progress. Your brain loves this! The people with the strongest habits have set up systems that make it easier, not harder, to do the habit. 

3. Don’t rely on motivation or “feelings.” 

You can’t start habits based on feelings because the feeling comes after the behavior… therefore the behavior takes discipline to reap the rewards. 

4. Establish habits that meet your goals rewardingly.

Immediate gratification releases dopamine. So when you create a habit and do the thing, you should reward yourself. Scientifically speaking, either intrinsic or extrinsic rewards can satisfy your neurochemical requirements. However, intrinsic goals help you streamline your efforts. It’s also typically easier to maintain a habit if you genuinely like what you're doing.

5. Start by creating rituals. 

If you set up a ritual, you can be more intentional and mindful about creating the habits you love. You can fall in love with the ritual itself. A ritual can become something you look forward to practicing, whereas a “building a habit” can feel like an uphill climb.

6. Tie your new habit to an existing habit. 

The classic example here is brushing your teeth. If that’s a strong habit for you, you could connect your new habit to the old one. So, for example, everytime you brush your teeth, you set out your morning journal. 

7. Shape your environment to support your goals and intended habits. 

Habits depend on context. This is why many of our habits change during major life events -- when we move, switch jobs, have a baby, or face illness or death. When your context supports your goals, it makes every microstep easier. Examples of tiny environmental tweaks include freeing vegetables from the crisper drawer, keeping your running shoes in a more visible place, or pre-booking a series of appointments with your preventative health care provider.  

8. Celebrate successes.

Even small steps should be counted as successes and rewarded immediately with something that suits your goals. Journaling for 5 minutes could be celebrated with a green tea you enjoy or a Kasvi smoothie.

9. Keep coming back to the practice or ritual. 

The length of time we practice a habit contributes to the overall strength of the habit. You’ll hear that it takes a specific amount of time, like 21 days or 40 days, but there is no magic number. The evidence leans more toward 2-3 months to build a habit that sticks. So when life intervenes or you forget to do your habit, don’t let that stop you from coming back to start again. It’s a process.

10. Integrate recovery and self-care. 

Recognize that being tired or overwhelmed weakens habit- building tendencies. Only work on building one habit at a time. Don’t overschedule yourself to the point of exhaustion. And give yourself some grace. 

11. Picture your habits like seeds in a garden.

Building intentional habits is like cultivating a garden. You can add water, and pay attention to the soil. It takes time and patience to see the fruits of your labor. You can’t control the weather. But you can always start again.