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7 Tips on Starting (and Keeping!) a Healthy Habit

With the New Year soon upon us, there’s lots of conversations around the “New Year, New Me” adage and pressure to commit to resolutions. And while the intent may be positive, the approach can cause unnecessary spirals of fear, guilt, or doubt.

We’ve tapped mental health experts for advice on how to start a healthy habit—and more importantly—how to integrated it successfully into your everyday life. Luckily, they had plenty of easy-to-follow advice to share. 

Reaching our goals and improving our lives is about using mindfulness to create new healthy habits and see them through. It’s an approach that’s gentle yet effective—and can be used whether we’re trying to keep our New Year’s resolutions, ignite our love lives, stop drinking too much coffee, or start a skincare routine.

And best of all, these tips don’t require starting our lives totally anew.

What is a healthy habit?

A healthy habit is a repeated, consistent practice that’s done with the purpose of enhancing our wellbeing over time. “They’re the things we do routinely that nurture us mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally—not just in the short term, but also in the long term,” explains Byron Young, M.D., psychiatrist, mental health advisor, and scientific research board member at Selfmade.

In other words, a healthy habit isn’t just about receiving a quick dopamine hit, it’s about playing the long game in order to benefit your body, mind, and soul. “This can be confusing because sometimes what feels good is bad for us, but what feels bad is actually good for us,” explains Anthony Townsend clinical psychologist and co-founder of EQNMT. “But ultimately, a healthy habit is defined by its ability to move you closer to what you personally value, not whether it feels good in the moment.”

This is especially important to remember in this era of now, now, now and more, more, more. “We’re lured into believing that everything is supposed to give us instant gratification and we want the quick fix,” says psychodermatologist and somatic healing coach Keira Barr, M.D. “But healthy habits are about true nourishment and developing a practice or system that creates a sustainable lifestyle.”

Lean into what nurtures you

To that end, first we need to get clear on what true nourishment means to us personally. Barr recommends reflecting on the activities you already do that make you feel like the best version of you. Do you feel great after taking a bath and listening to guided meditations? Calling your mom on your way to work? Doing yoga with your bestie? Ask yourself “what actions give you sustained energy and support over the course of the day, the weeks, and months,” she advises. “Nourishing yourself is about supplying the food, sleep, movement, and experiences that actually enable you to live life in the way that you desire to live it.”

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