We all know that creating healthier habits will increase our longevity and strengthen our well-being, but how do we get started? You may have heard sayings like “it takes 21 days to make or break a habit,” which simplify the process and also invalidate our attempts at changes in the past. If healthier habits were formed as easy as sticking to something for 3 weeks, we would all be early risers who run 10k marathons once a month— but we aren’t (well most of us anyways!)

The process of creating healthy habits is a series of steps that we practice repeatedly until it becomes an automatic part of our everyday life, and even then sometimes we still have to motivate ourselves. It’s definitely not an easy journey, but it’s one that’s worth the effort to create a healthier future for yourself.

The first step to create healthier habits is to create a plan. This plan should include small, tangible goals that you can work towards. When we make grandiose or long term goals, we can overwhelm ourselves and end up giving up. But when we cut our habits into tiny bite-sized pieces we make our goals more available to us. Think of it this way; you’re climbing a long staircase. Are you more likely to get there if you stare at the destination and how far it is? Or if you focus on one step at a time? (The answer is B.) Also consider getting an accountability partner for your new habit, someone to go on walks with, make healthier meals or cut back your alcohol intake. Research shows that people’s health behaviors tend to mirror those of their family and friends. Invite them to join you, support you, and help you stay on track.

The second step we can take is to track our progress. We do this here at Reframe because it is proven to help us cut-back or quit drinking alcohol, but tracking our progress in all areas of our lives can help us be successful. Self-control and discipline are like muscles, the more you practice using them the stronger they get. Try keeping yourself accountable by using your Reframe Goal Tracker or using a Daily Planner to write down your goals and keep track of each day you successfully complete them.

The third step we can take is practicing patience. Creating new habits is rarely a linear journey. We can experience setbacks like slipping into old behaviors, becoming ill or injured or just being too dang busy! It’s important that you practice self-compassion and remind yourself that big lifestyle changes take time. Nothing good in life comes easy, and if you want to make big changes, especially to habits that have been ingrained into your life for years, you have to be patient.