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Want to know how to become healthy without making much effort? Changing behaviors in your daily routine to healthy habits will become second nature and add up to an improved you.
Make it easy on yourself and chose one of these 6 daily healthy habits to add each week, building them up so that you get closer to your health goals.
A 2012 study, Making Health Habitual: the psychology of 'habit-formation' and general practice, published by the British Journal of General Practice, looked at the psychology of forming a habit. Habits are stated as "actions that are triggered automatically in response to contextual cues that have been associated with their performance." They benefit you because the human brain likes efficiency and common actions that can be automated to free up mental resources for other tasks.
Pleasure based habits are hard to break because the brain is prompted to release dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter that strengthens the habit and leaves you craving for more.
Becoming aware of your habits is the first step to develop strategies to change them.
If bad habits are linked to specific people or places, you can help change your habits by avoiding situations. By keeping company with likeminded people, for example, fit-minded people who prefer eating a salad over pizza or hang out at the gym, you're more likely to stay consistent and achieve your goals.
Another option is to replace a bad habit with a good one. For example, swap smoking a cigarette with chewing on gum.
There's a common myth that it takes just 21 days to form a new habit, often regarded as scientific fact.
In the 1950s, Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon, observed that it took around 21 days for patients to get used to seeing their new face, or for amputees to stop sensing phantom limbs. He published a best-selling book called Psycho-Cybernetics in 1960 about his observations, and influential works impacted many self-help professionals, and people began to cite his observations as fact. They also forgot the part about "a minimum" of 21 days and just shortened it to "it takes 21 days to form a new habit".
So how long does it actually take to form a new habit or to break a bad habit?
The short answer is it ultimately comes down to the habit in question, the person, and the circumstances. A study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology in 2009 stated that it takes, on average, 66 days before a behavior becomes automatic.
The study found that it took anywhere from 18 to 245 days to form a new habit. Some habits took longer because of their nature, and some people found it more challenging than others to stick to a routine. It was also found that missing one occasion to perform a behavior did not significantly affect the whole process. This is encouraging and means that even if you seem to take longer than a few weeks to form a habit or mess up occasionally, you can still achieve your goal.
If you're wondering how to form good habits and stick to them, these healthy habits are easy to adopt and require minimal discipline or effort but have tremendous health benefits.
Keep water on your nightstand to drink first thing in the morning when you wake up. Eight hours of recommended sleep at night is a long time to go without water. So, drink at least one glass of water when you wake up for a multitude of benefits; hydrate your organs, increase alertness, cleanse your digestive system, fuel your brain, jump start your metabolism.
Look into lifestyle and fitness health apps for tracking.
Eat enough until you feel nourished and satisfied, but not so much that you feel stuffed. Your stomach expands if you overeat and pushes against your organs, making you feel sluggish and tired. Smaller meals stabilize blood sugar levels and provide essential nutrients throughout the day.
Always drink a glass of water before and during your meal to aid digestion. Water helps to break down food so your body can absorb the nutrients. It also helps softens stool, preventing constipation.
When checking out successful people's habits, they will often refer to exercise as a key productivity secret.
The recommended minimum number of steps to walk per day is 10,000, which can be monitored on any Health smartphone app. The great thing about sticking to this goal is you can monitor your steps throughout the day and make up any shortfall in the evening.
To help you hit your 10,000 steps minimum, take a midday walk and kill two birds with one stone. Get more vitamin D by stepping outside for 30 minutes a day. The vitamin will help strengthen your bones and muscles, boost your immunity and mood, support oral health, and much more.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to adopting healthy habits, nor a number that will tell you how long it will take to become automatic behavior. Some habits will be easier to form and take less time than others. Work with what best suits your lifestyle and put the effort in.
If you want to monitor your success, consider writing a list of habits you want to start or stop doing. This is a great way to start monitoring and building health habits that will impact your life for the better.
What healthy habits have you always longed to adopt but never seemed to carry on with? Share your stories in the comments section below.