In partnership with our friends at Dr. Sheffield’s
Developing healthy habits is not a matter of white-knuckling your way through difficult things. It’s about
automating what’s good for you. From a body of behavioral science research, we know that people who are good at
locking in habits succeed in three areas: reward, repetition, and context.
The book Good
Habits, Bad Habits by social psychologist Wendy Wood is a great resource on the ins and outs of
behavior change—it draws on decades of research and Wood’s own experiences investigating expert habit-makers, and
it’s where we learned this three-pronged approach to making habits stick:
Especially in the early stages of practicing a behavior, you have to make sure that the actions you’re trying to
establish as habit are enjoyable to you in some way. That’s the way people are built: We tend to repeat things
that are rewarding. It doesn’t have to be an actual tangible reward—it could be as simple as enjoyment or pride in
what you’re doing.
Effective habit formation is not about doing one-off activities to get you closer to your desired outcome but
about finding one behavior that aligns with your goals and sticking with that thing. In order to establish
routines that are automatic and easy to repeat, you have to repeat the same behavior. Consistency is key.
In habit formation, “context” essentially means: Set yourself up for success. Your environment should make it
easier to maintain the habit you’re trying to form. Keep the tools you need in the places you need them, and use
them at a consistent time or in a consistent order.
We’ve rounded up some tools related to healthy habits from brushing your teeth to becoming the queen of compost.
Each of them helps push you in the right direction by boosting at least one aspect of habit formation.