Achievers, Achievement, Happy, Healthy, Motivation, Habit, Habits, Health, Determination
Health & Wellness Behaviour Resources

How To Create Healthier Habits

How to create healthier habits


Success and achievement in any form arrives after the practice of positve and repeatable actions. With this in mind let’s look then how to create healthier habits that support your ongoing goals. 

How To Create Healthier Habits

Before we delve into what you can do to increase your habit creating success, let’s first establish what a habit is. 

Simply put a habit is routined behaviour that you repeat regularly. Often subconsciously and usually associated with actions that are difficult to break away from. 

For example craving something sweet after your dinner is actually a habit you formed long before that regulate thoughtless action. The stimuli of finishing your meal signals for a sweet treat, this happens unconsciously. 

With thought and persistence; behaviours like these can be changed and transformed. 

To change a habit requires a conscious and a deliberate effort to do so in the early stages. Practiced overtime the conscious behaviour becomes instinctive. Here’s how.

Start Small, Start Simple

Small Steps Everyday, How To Create Healthier Habits

Having ambition is great and I fully support anyone who wants to set the bar high for themselves; go for it. 

Don’t expect or put pressure on yourself to achieve this quickly. 

Some may of course, but often it takes a systematic approach. Whereby you start improving in small areas, and increasing small actions over time.

In order to do this successful you need to track back from your target and start at the beginning. Breaking the goal down into its simplest form. 

Focus on the step, not the stair case.

Smaller habits are easier to sustain & to fit into your life.  

For instance lets say you want to run in a marathon, but currently you are completely sedentary and haven’t exercised for years. Your overweight by around 40lbs and have two young children to raise and support.

Right off the bat you have commitments and limitations that prevent you from realistically running a marathon within a week.

So we have our goal, we now need to plan the route and the associated habits that will help get you there. The absolute beginning point might be that you start tracking you food and monitoring the steps you take per day. This data gives you an understanding about how much you’re eating and moving. After a few days, our next step is to aim for a specific caloric intake to ensure you are over eating and a specific amount of steps to make each day. 

Monitoring your steps are a great way to review how much physical energy you are likely expending per day. The recommended daily amount would be at least 10,000. However, this may be too much to start with straight away. The key is to find your set point and make incremental improvements everyday. For example you eat 1000 calories over per day, tomorrow eat 800 over and bring it down slowly. Of course some may benefit from a faster approach. You need to find a system that you ca repeatedly achieve per day. If it’s too hard you may give up, especially in the early stages. What’s next?

Pros & Cons

Before you start your improvement journey, understanding the impacts of the venture are important for success. Think about the benefits and downsides as a result of creating these new actions and behaviours. Creating new habits can mean letting go of old ones this can feel scary. For many a natural resistance to this process can arise. Being honest with yourself can help preparedness. 

I went through a period of taking pain killers unnecessarily, it followed an injury I sustained playing rugby, whereby I had to manage genuine pain. I then became addicted to the routine and feeling of the medication. 

I understood my actions were not good but aware also if I didn’t actively address this I’d continue each day to take them, even when not needed. To help I decided to “do my own research. ” This phrase is one I use with clients often. I made sure I understood the true impact of opioid abuse and how it could affect my health. This meant I had to read and expose myself to some pretty scary facts. I thought about this new knowledge and put it in context towards my life, my children, my abilities and more. This became a motivational tool for me. Knowing the side affects to my behaviour helped remind me of the damage I was causing not only myself but others around me. Others who depend on me. 

With any habit comes both pros and cons. If you think about it even know negative actions have positive side affects, it’s exactly why you behave in this manner. Take a smoker for example, the impacts of smoking and the negative impacts it has on health is inarguable. Yet smoking for some can reduce anxiety and help people to relax. There are much healthier ways of doing this of course, the point I’m making is that all habit come with both beneficial and detrimental outcomes. 

I certainly gained a sense of relaxation when taking pain killers, but I was groggy, moody and cognitively impaired. Longer term it was doing my health no good either and would eventually affect my liver, blood and so on. The drawback out weighed the  perceived benefits so the habit had to be broke. 

If you’re a smoker, overweight, unfit / sedentary or have any areas of your life that are less optimal. Research the impacts of your current actions and behaviours. Don’t bury your head in the sand. Face the music and gear up to do something about it. 

Create a schedule

Schedule Image, How To Create Healthier Habits

Create a realistic schedule that you follow. The core part in that sentence is realistic! 

For example if increasing your exercise is your goal find 3 hours (1 hour on separate days) in the week that you can 100% attend without limitation. 

Sure things crop up and on rare occasions that may impact your ability to get a workout in, but for nearly all of us there is time in our day to exercise. 

Being organised is essential to this. Again start small and build up. 

Your schedule should match what you can realistically and comfortably commit to.

However once you have committed to a date and time stick with it. Unless your house is burning down or something of a similar severity is occurring then there is no excuse. Make your intention a commitment, make it non negotiable. Creating time for yourself is not selfish, its self care! You need to look after yourself so that you are fit and healthy to look after others! 

Motivation Is unreliable

Don’t rely on motivation. 

People often say to me I wish I had your motivation (with regard to working out and diet). Truth is I’m no more motivated than the next person. I don’t have a secret drive or obsession. In any given month there are always times I feel low, tired, disengaged, side tracked, apathetic and more. The main difference between me and those who “wish for motivation” is how I interpret and manage these emotions. I’ve taught myself to process these feelings and move on from them. Not allowing them to diminish my wants. It takes resilience for sure but the best thing to do in order to overcome these moments is to take action. Something small that gets you one step closer to a positive outcome. 

I also understand that your drive for improvement should be yourself. Using others as a primary driver to improve isn’t good enough. You need to do it for yourself. 

With my exercise example in mind that might mean when you feel you can’t be bothered or you’re tired. Just get your gym kit on. Perhaps have a large coffee, or just bang out 50 sit ups right where you are. All of these actions engage your mental and physical systems that impact your feelings. 

Motivation is often high for people at the begging of a journey and then it starts to erode. By taking action, you’re creating positve habits that redefine your response to negative feelings. You won’t always get this right and thats cool, just try your best (really try) to overcome moments that test your resilience. Overcoming these moments in itself can leave you feeling liberated and support a sense of achievement. I’m yet to meet anyone who can’t do this. Go for it.  

Prepare for The challenge

How To Create Healthier Habits

I’m not willing you to face adversity, but challenge is part of most improvement journeys. None of my clients including me have had a linear upward trajectory when it comes to achievements. Somewhere along the line progress stalls, with regression often creeping in too. This is ok and completely normal! The most important thing here is that you don’t compound these shortfalls, mistakes, or “failings.” 

Preparing for challenge is about foresight and proactivity. It enables you to plan for eventualities that might stall progress. Enabling you to manage your actions when this arises. Ultimately you’re taking back control. 

Like with success, failures offer teachable moments. In every stage of your journey I want you to asses the outcomes. Good or bad, think about what went well, what didn’t, what you could improve or what you might keep the same. 

So how might you prepare for challenge. Heres a few tips:

Stay accountable

Express your goals to people you trust. Orally stating what you want to achieve can help remind you why you’re doing this. Accountability encourages reflection and resilience. Telling someone your want to achieve a goal can add a much needed layer to your drive.

Get a training partner or coach.

Someone who you can commit to. As humans we like to please and help and have an innate thrive on being needed. Having a person who relies on yo or who is monitoring and steering you progress can significantly keep you on track. 

Develop a good support network

Reach out to people who can support you and help you get back on track. Positive people that want to see you succeed and be happy. Access these people to voice your aims and talk through challenges. Create an agreement to yourself to regularly communicate with people who want to help. 

During my mid 20’s I was in the midst of sever bulimia. Following a major health scare I knew I had to address my behaviours. This was one of the biggest challenges I have faced. Without my family and few core friends I’m convinced I wouldn’t have been able to achieve success. Some days I could be on the phone to my mum for hours or sat with my wife who listened and helped to distract. 

I had to use many of the tools listed in this article but having a people who I felt where they’re for me really helped. 

Move on from set backs 

Don’t dwell on moments that you didn’t do so well in. Move on from them; quickly. What’s worse than a bad diet day? A bad diet week! Avoid compounding errors or mishaps, learn from them and move on. Don’t allow them to define future success. You’re human; we all have set backs!

Breaking my eating disorder habits didn’t happen overnight and wasn’t without knock backs. I found that a full self assessment of my thought, feelings, behaviours and outcomes was very helpful follow both moments of setback and achievement. I would use my phone to write down my actions before during and after these markable occasions. Identifying facts like what time was is how hungry was I, was I stressed, was I mindless, was I tired, angry, ambivalent etc. All this data enabled me to breakdown my actions and help me identify possible triggers that I could become aware of. This information helped me prepare and avoid future issues. 

I always forgave myself and reminded myself of all the small achievements along the way. I never compounded the issue even during a set back. Before I would’ve had an all or nothing attitude. In for a penny in for a pound. A “ah f*ck it” mindset. Letting go of this approach enabled me to consolidate moments where I fell short.

I liken it to a car crash moment. You analyse the accident, clear the debris and continue the journey.

Remove Temptations 

Changing habits becomes much harder if you are surrounded by temptations that lure you consciously or unconsciously. For instance if you’re a smoker remove all cigarettes from the house. For some it may be that these are kept elsewhere but not easily accessible. When cues present themselves for this typical behaviour you increase the likelihood of succumbing to the urge. 


Remember this word and use it when doubt creeps in. For example, “I’m no good at waking up early, HOWEVER, if I practice waking up 10 minutes earlier each day I can become more used to earlier starts.” Or “I can’t stop over indulging, however if I increase my understanding of nutrition and eat foods that help fill me up, that will help me from wanting to overeat caloric foods.” 


There’s various theories about how long it takes to create and embed a new habit. Understanding how long it may take can help align your expectations and increase effort adherence. 

Some claim it can take 21 days, however reasecrh suggests its likely to take longer. One study determined that around 61 days is common form many people to create a new habit on average. 

The definitive truth however is that habit creation is highly individual. Variables dictate how long it’s likely to take. Habits, people, mindsets and education differ tremendously from person to person. 

As a guide expect your efforts to extend to around 60 days of continual effort and mindfulness in your attempts to improve. Except however that this could be longer (or shorter). Keep working on new habits and know that persistence is your greatest ally.

Temptation Bundling

This is designed to “nudge” you into the direction of your new habit. The idea is relatively simple and one that was pioneered by Katie Milkman, a professor at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

In essence you take a challenge and less enjoyable task and combine it with one that you enjoy. For example, let’s say you know you need to eat better and understand that eating more vegetables underpins this. Yet you’re not a big fan of veg. To encourage  eating your 5+ a day combine this behaviour with a task you enjoy. Perhaps it’s scrolling instagram, online shopping or listening to music, anything that is enjoyable to you. The catch is your online allowed to do this whilst competing the less favourable and obligatory task. 

The study conducted by Katie Milkman found that more often than not people pursued the tasks that increased positve outcomes but that they didn’t particularly enjoy. In this instance Katie studied people and their attendance to the gym. They were only allowed to listen to their chosen audiobooks whilst working out. Low and behold more people went to the gym. 

Temptation bundling may be an effective strategy to encourage you to get involved in meaningful tasks that you enjoy less than others. 

Identify the cue & Create a trigger

The Habit Loop, How To Create Healthier Habits

The ever popular author James Clear who wrote the impactful book Atomic Habits explains the notions of the habit loop. The first part of this loop is “the cue.” (This is a must read for anyone wanting to develop better habits).

Understanding your cues, can better help you plan how you will manage the potentially destructive or unhelpful behaviour to follow. For instance, a typical cue for me would be walking into the house following some time out. I immediately feel peckish even if I’ve just eaten. Something about the moment signals snacking for me. To counter this thought, I ensure I avoid the kitchen and get stuck into a project or task for at least 20 minutes. The thought to eat then passes. 

James Clear further explains there are 5 primary ways in which cues can trigger a habit. Understanding these can help you identify, plan, overcome destructive behaviours. 

Likewise you can create cues that trigger new habits that complement positive change. Here’s how.

5 Cue Types


We are a routined species that operate in 24 hour cycles. As a result we often behave in particular ways depending on the time. For example, On waking I immediately drink a glass of water, have a coffee and brush my teeth; every day 365 days a year. I’m sure you have similar patterns of behaviours based around what time it is.

This is an obvious example but there are more subtle ones you can pick up on with a little bit of mindfulness. For example, I’ve identified that most days around 2pm I’ll crave something sweet or carb based. For others it might be something  like a cigarette break? 

Time can be used to your advantage. If you’re aware of upcoming cues based on the time of day you can start to replace these with more meaningful and positive behaviours. 

For me evenings pose the most challenge. It’s when I’m most relaxed and open to unnecessary snacking. In the past, if I’m not mindful I’ll easily work my way though a pot of Pringles and a large tub Haagen-Dazs ice cream (Pralines and cream; every time). 

To prevent this I’ve learned developed a love for colouring in. The intricacies and calm nature of the task relaxes and distracts me from my indulgent thoughts. With ease I can now override temptation, although this did take practice to start. 


My example of walking in to the house and feeling peckish is the perfect example of location based cues. James Clear argues that location is the strongest driver of mindless habit and therefor one of the hardest to identify. 

There are several studies into this that clarify how location and environment can impact habit, both positively and negatively. This is also known as choice architecture. Simply put it’s the theory that a certain environment can impact you’re behaviour, and that many environments already have hard wired behaviours attached to them. I  used to spend hours sat in my parents lounge growing up to which I often drifted off for a nap. Now whenever I go and visit and sit in the lounge I always feel sleepy. This happens every-time. For me this is an example of a location habit. 

Two studies which demonstrate this can be found here. (HWK-1) & (HWK-2)

Like all habit cues they can positively or negatively impact you. New locations are unique as they offer a blank canvas to create positive habits. Whereas well known locations require a “rewiring” approach. 

To harness location and create new habits you need to create new actions that generate memory and become instinctive. 

When I go into my mum and dads lounge now I make sure I engage in some kind of activity or conversation, if I start to feel sleepy I stand up or leave the room momentarily. Down get me wrong a nap here on Christmas Day is lovely, but when you have two small children to keep an eye on its less than ideal.

The goal is to replicate an actions that encourage your participation in tasks that benefit. 

It might be that you always eat your lunch in the kitchen and not the lounge. When you’re done you clean up and exit the kitchen. This indicates you’re done. Leaving the room will overtime reenforce meal time is over and signal new tasks. This can help prevent overeating and unnecessary weight gain, as a result.

Preceding Event

Plenty of habits result in response to something happening. For example, I’ve worked with people who every time they finish a tough phone call, proceed to go outside for a cigarette break. The call triggered a “need to smoke.” There are hundreds of example habits like these. 

You can use a preceding event to build in new positive habits. To increase my social connections with friends and family I make sure I call at least one person when I get in the car. Even just fro 5 minutes. I’ll use entering the car as a stimulus to reach out to friends or family. 

Think about how you might use a preceding event to support your own habits for improvement. You are limited only by imagination. One of my clients who receives lots of parcels does 10 press ups after every delivery as part of his exercise targets. 

Emotional State 

This is a common one for bad habits in particular. Author James Clear explains this is a hard area to develop positive new habits, often because you need to be emotional and aware. Think about when your particular angry or upset, perhaps low or depressed. Its hard to think and act productively in these moments. It can be done but much harder to implement a new habit.  

Practicing mindfulness with regards to your emotional state can help deescalate emotions and prevent bad habits from arising as a result. One simple but very effective way do to this would be to control your breathing. 

Box Breathing – in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 and out for 4 seconds, refrain from inhale for 4 sec. 
Repeat for 3 minutes. 
Once completed you’ll likely find you’re much calmer and more able to refrain from actions or behaviour that may have impacted your progress. 

Other People

The people you surround yourself with impact who you become. A study conducted in 2007 found that if your best friend becomes obese you’re 57% more likely to do the same, even if they are hundreds of miles away. 

Jim Rohn explains, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

Therefore it’s likely that the best course of action is to surround yourself with positive like minded people who share goals and targets similar to you. 

Personally I’ve experienced both positive and negative sides of this coin and find the notion to be true; anecdotally of course. 

This becomes harder when you have to be with people you know aren’t necessarily conducive to your own goals. This doesn’t mean they are people that knowingly wish to sabotage your efforts (it’s also possible they do know). For example it may even be family or friends who have a different perspective on life. 

Learning to stay true to yourself and mitigating conflict or peer pressure can help. Be prepared however for people who challenge, sometimes aggressively or in a mean manner. Remind yourself of what’s important to you. Buckling to become something you’re not will likely lead to negative results later down the line. 

The ones who want to see you happy and succeed will understand even if it takes a while. You’ll figure out those who don’t soon enough. When you do avoid them whenever possible, or wear your invisible cloak of armour to prevent them from penetrating your resilience and killing your goals.

Having an understanding of cue types can help your pick the right one to support new habits your trying to develop. 

Clear explains ” The key to choosing a successful cue is to pick a trigger that is very specific and immediately actionable.”

What works for you may not be right for the next person. Habit creation, cues and triggers are highly individual. get creative and assess what works and what is less effective. Keep practicing and eventually you’ll develop a system thats right fro you and your individual pursuits. 

The Run Down

Start small, start simple

Have the goal in mind, but focus on the small improvement steps that get yo there. Small changes add up to make a big difference.

Create a schedule

Get yourself organised and commit to the allocated time allotted to the new habit.

Motivation is unreliable

Never rely on motivation, it’s too inconsistent. Instead take small actions regularly, this may kick start positive behaviours.

Prepare for the challenge 

Embrace the challenge and all of the associated components. Enjoy moments of small achievement and ride the moments that challenge you harder. Stay accountable, stay connected, stay positive and don’t dwell on shortfalls.

Temptation bundling

Use this technique to encourage participation in less favourable tasks. Combine something you enjoy with a positve task that you find hard. Avoid putting off these tasks. Grab the bull by the horns and get it done. This is achievement in itself.

Identify the cue & create a trigger

Cues can unconsciously insight behaviours. This works for both positive and destructive actions. Redefine and implement new triggers that encourage / remind you to act in a manner that supports your improvement.

Help & Support

We’re here to guide, plan and support people so that gaining improved health and happiness feels more attainable. As a coach even I have a coach. Someone impartial who has a different skill set to my own. I believe we should all have guidance to help clear the path for growth. 

Please get in touch if I or any of our coaches can support your aims. 

You can achieve and improve it just takes time and effort. Don’t give up, be patient, be resilient, be tenacious and be grateful. You will get there. 

I hope this article has been some help to you. 

From me and everyone at HWK, “good luck” you’ve got this.