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6 Ways to Create Habits You Actually Keep (With Examples)

by Megan

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We all have bad habits – late-night snacking, biting our fingernails, or aimlessly scrolling through Facebook. Though many bad habits are harmless, some can be detrimental to our health – smoking, drinking, and spending too much. Don’t you wish you could create good habits and actually keep them?

Using the latest research and some suggestions from around the world, we can show you how to create habits that you can actually keep – and make use of habits that you can pass down to your kids such as positive self-talk, good banking and finance habits, structure and discipline, and diet and exercise. This way, you can use positive habits to improve the quality of your life and those around you.

In this article, you’ll learn how to form a habit, what makes habits stick, and some habits you can cultivate in your own life.

Why creating habits can feel so difficult

If you’re a serial new years resolution setter, chances are your habits don’t always stick. In fact, 80% of people give up on their resolutions by the time January rolls around. 

Habit-forming is often unconscious. Fifteen years ago, if someone told you you’d be staring into a device that showed you cat pictures and what other people had for lunch for hours on end, you’d call them crazy. As of 2022, 1.9 billion people use Facebook every day to do just that.

It has become a habit for those people as much as going to the gym or making one’s bed every day. 

These bad habits are mostly “triggered” by convenience, proximity, stress, or a lack of time.

For example, you may buy some snacks on the way to work every day, because there’s a vending machine near your entrance. One idea is to use a different entrance and break the habit. 

My point is, that most of these habits are formed unconsciously. This is why it can feel unnatural to create habits on purpose.

Why it’s important to create habits early

The earlier you start with something, the more effective it becomes over time. Don’t despair if you’re an older person – habits can still have a great impact on your life if you decide to start today.

In addition, instilling good habits in your children can set them up for a happier, healthier, and fulfilled life. 

One way is to teach your kids about bank accounts. By letting them control their own finances via an app or debit card, you can let them make mistakes with their money – maybe that 100-page sticker book wasn’t all it was cracked up to be! – and they will learn about saving for bigger and better things as well as structure and discipline.

Instilling habits when children are young can have positive effects for the rest of their lives. 

6 tips to create habits that you will actually keep

Enough with the benefits of good habits! How do you actually go about creating them? Here are 6 actionable tips that will help you create your positive habits!

1. Conscious habit-forming

Conscious habit-forming requires planning and thought. You should have a SMART goal and plan – that means Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-Limited. Instead of a big “I need to lose 20kg” – make it SMART: “I want to lose 1kg every two weeks by going to the gym at least three times a week for the next three months.” 

2. Stack your habits

Another popular way to form habits is by “habit stacking” according to James Clear, author of Atomic Habits.

He says that habits can be formed by stacking them on top of one another – for example, if you already have a habit of making coffee in the morning, do five push-ups while you’re waiting for the water to boil. Another example is to make a habit of driving to the gym every day – you don’t even have to go in.

Since you already have a habit of driving to the gym, doing a workout is the next logical step; and before long you’ve formed a gym attendance habit instead of just a gym-driving habit!

This can also apply to your kids if you set it up as part of a family habit.

3. Identify negative self-talk and change it

How we react to events and talk about ourselves can have a powerful impact on our mental health. As far back as ancient times, the Stoic philosophers once said that “the universe is change, life is what our thoughts make it.

Getting into the habit of speaking positively to yourself can have a profound impact on your mental health. This may be through identifying negative self-talk, checking in with how you, your partner, and your kids are feeling, finding the lighter side of “negative” situations, and surrounding yourself with positive people.

If you find it difficult, you may want to enlist the help of a therapist or counselor to get yourself into the habit of positive self-talk. 

4. Add structure to your life

Structure and discipline are crucial to forming habits in general. Structure in life can be achieved through writing down a morning routine, writing to-do lists, meal planning, making time for self-care, and other repeatable actions.

Creating structure and sticking to it requires discipline – and this discipline can positively impact your mental sharpness, wellbeing, and energy levels. For more helpful tips, here is our article on how to create more structure in life.

5. Get into good financial habits

Learning about finances is a tricky one – especially since it’s so taboo in Western culture – but instilling good financial habits will help you make better financial decisions and set you up for growing real wealth.

This is incredibly important if you want to have a sense of freedom to do what makes you happy, instead of what your bank account tells you to do (which is mostly to work harder!)

To begin with good financial habits, you should consult a licensed financial adviser to give you a baseline on your finances. Seeing a financial adviser regularly keeps you accountable (literally) and puts you on a good path with your finances.

6. Maintaining good health through diet and exercise

Diet and exercise are one of the more popular resolutions people make and seldom stick to. Changing how we eat is made easier by direct-to-door portion-controlled meal services such as YouFoodz, My Muscle Chef, or Hello Fresh. By restricting the amount, we can maintain a level of caloric intake. 

To help instill the habit in your kids, you can incentivize them with extra pocket money in their accounts if they choose good foods instead of spending it all on lollies. 

As for exercise, layer this into the family routine. A structured family walk or a trip to the recreation center each week (or multiple times a week) can start the habit of exercising regularly. The entire family will feel energized, your mental health will improve – and the bonus is that the kids will actually be tired enough to get to bed at their allotted bedtime hour!

💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, I’ve condensed the information of 100’s of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇

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Thrive under stress and crush your goals with these 10 unique tips for your mental health.

Wrapping up

Habits don’t have to work straight away – they can take time and nurturing to form. But once they do set in stone, they’ll last a lifetime! Stacking multiple positive habits like this can have a compounding effect on your overall happiness, and those around you!

What’s the last habit you’ve created to improve your own wellbeing? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments below.

Megan PierceHall Author

Former data analyst. Originally from Honolulu, now traveling the world on a mission to make the most out of life. Media specialist by day, huge classical music nerd, and sudoku solver at night.

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