Tips for building healthy habits

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As a college student, it’s easy to prioritize academics and extracurricular activities over your physical and mental health. You might have found that instead of having habits that are beneficial for your health, your routines mostly involve binging on snack food and studying until your sleep schedule resembles that of a bat. Students typically have more free time during the summer which is why it’s a great time to focus on building healthy habits. These can be activities such as running in the morning, yoga, setting aside time each day to study or journaling before you go to bed. Building healthy habits and practices will help you start next semester on the right foot as the wait to return to an in-person semester finally ends. Read on to learn tips for building habits and maintaining them long term!

Focus on one habit at a time 

It’s tempting to get excited and try to build a lot of new skills and practices at the same time. While you may be able to stay on track for a few days or even weeks, it’s likely that you’ll fall off the wagon quickly. When you try to build too many habits at once, it’s difficult to keep track of them and dedicate the necessary time and effort to each of them. For instance, if you’re trying to run every morning but also trying to meal prep, you might find yourself too overwhelmed to do either, especially on days when you wake up a little late. You are more likely to successfully build habits when you focus on one goal at a time. You’ll be less overwhelmed, and it will be easier to keep track of your progress.

Track your progress 

I found that habit tracking is extremely useful as it’s motivating to see the progress I’ve made and how much more progress I need to make to attain a particular goal. When you have a streak going, it’s that much more incentive to ignore the urge to have a cheat day. Plus, looking back on your progress is incredibly rewarding. An easy way to track your progress with your goal is to measure your streak: the number of consecutive days (or weeks, or months or years) you stuck to the habit. You can either use online habit trackers or create one yourself in an online or physical journal. Some online trackers you can use include Habitify, Habitica and Strides. 

Focus on making regular, marginal improvements

Rather than aiming for quantum leaps, it’s easier to maintain healthy habits in the long term if you focus on making small but regular improvements. Small changes compound over time to yield large returns. For instance, say your goal is to be able to study for 50 minutes without getting distracted. It’s easier to start by focusing for 20 minutes straight and increase the time by five minutes every week, rather than by forcing yourself to concentrate for 50 minutes from the start. 

Get back on track quickly 

When you fall off the wagon, get back on track quickly. As a rule of thumb, don’t skip your routine more than two days in a row. This can be especially difficult to do if you are a perfectionist as missing even a day’s workout or study session can be demotivating. However, keep in mind that consistency is far more important than perfection for habit building. Even if you lose track of the goal temporarily, know that you always have the opportunity to start again. Don’t let embarrassment or disappointment prevent you from maintaining the healthy routines you’ve worked for!

Physical and mental wellness is the foundation for accomplishing your goals while avoiding burnout. Setting some time aside during the summer to work on building healthy habits will definitely pay off in the long run!

Contact Vaidehi Bulusu at [email protected].