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I recently had a friend of the family staying over at my home for a long weekend. What started out as a pleasantly sociable first evening soon turned into a nightmare. It wasn’t that my visitor was rude or slobby, even though it seemed like it initially. Rather, I realized he was someone with a lack of good and productive habits (aka poor habits).
Realizing what an impact good habits make on your life, I decided to have a quiet chat with my guest the next morning. Instead of using words, I used good habits examples to help him see the value of cultivating great habits. Do you have great habits that help you live life to the full?
Why Are Good Habits Important?
A habit, as you probably know, is an action or activity you do without many thought processes required. It’s a second nature you rely on to simplify your day so your brain doesn’t have to make so many decisions. Instead of having to reason about what’s the right thing to do in each situation, your brain simply already knows the way, since you have been doing those things for a while.
Good habits are important to live a successful and less stressed life. Habits can help you make better and more powerful choices, since you don’t have to reason and think about every little thing until you develop cognitive fatigue. At that point, your brain will jump at the first possible choice just to get things done.
This mental fatigue is what stops you from sticking to that diet goal of not eating an ice cream after work. You stop at the supermarket, and instead of getting the green veggies you need to eat, you get a big tub of rocky road for you to binge on. Why? You haven’t developed the habit of eating healthily. Instead, you have become trapped in a bad habit of indulging in harmful food choices.
When Good Habits Start
The journey to having better habits that will improve your life is a winding one. It involves getting great habits in place, so you will take the strain from your brain. Forming good habits starts with identifying bad habits.
Bad habits are non-useful things you do without even thinking. These bad habits are often directly linked to an instantly gratifying decision that makes you feel good, but then you experience remorse after the poor choice has been made.
A few examples on how a bad habit works include:
In identifying whether a habit is good or bad, it’s simple—and I’m borrowing from Dr. Phil McGraw here—ask yourself “How’s it working for you?”
A good habit works because it opens doors and helps you become more of who you should be. It doesn’t fill you with remorse or anger or depression.
If the answer is that the habit isn’t working, then you have a bad habit, which you need to change into a good habit. Your first step should be to change bad habits to good and useful ones. It boils down to choice. You can choose a better action if you are mindful and notice a habit you have. Remember: Habits are often coping mechanisms you may not even be fully aware of.
Finally, before we look at great habits to build, you should keep in mind that a habit takes 21 days to form, 60 days to perfect, and 90 days to a fully self-sustaining habit. That means repetition is vital for at least three months, or your new habit will disappear.
23 Good Habits to Build
Forming conscious habits that are beneficial to your life, your family’s life, and your general impact on the community around you is how you thrive. Try creating these good habits to help you lead a more successful and deeply satisfied life.
Habit #1. Make Your Bed Each Morning
Starting the day off on the right foot is as simple as developing the good habit of making your own bed as neatly as you can each morning. As the famous speech by Admiral William H. McRaven alludes to, making your bed is about getting the first thing right for the morning. Even if the rest of the day is a mess after that, you still managed to do one thing right.
Choose to practice awareness by making your bed each day. Make the act of making your bed part of your morning routine for a truly effective set of habits that will make your day much more productive and focused.
Action Item: Build your morning routine by selecting micro habits that are helpful to achieve your main habit. If you struggle with making your bed, get into the habit of getting up earlier than your usual alarm’s notice. Break the pattern and build a new habit.
Reward yourself with an encouraging act like shaving and humming along to your favorite song as soon as you have gotten up. Don’t linger in bed. Building a routine for how you approach your morning is a great way to develop healthy habits.
Habit #2. Write Each Day
You don’t have to be an author or poet to enjoy the benefits of writing as a habit. Daily journaling will help bring order to your life as you record your thoughts and feelings. Writing provides stress relief, encourages change, and builds self-reflection.
Writing is one of the habits that has the most wide-reaching effects on your ability to build healthy habits.
Action Item: Using journal prompts can help you get into the habit of writing. Use a jar system with topics and prompts to write about, or write about your experiences this day. Bring chaos to a busy life.
Habit #3. Think Positive Always
In a negative world, it’s very challenging to remain positive. Yet, the way you look at a situation often influences how things work out. Positive energy has a way of overcoming obstacles and prompting favorable action in others.
Essentially, what you put out, you get back. If you’re a habitually positive person, you will enjoy a much more upbeat life.
Action Item: Reminders such as a pebble in your pocket or an elastic band on your wrist can help remind you how to remain positive. Likewise, breathing exercises can also help you pause when you are negative and intentionally change your attitude.
Habit #4. Breathe Mindfully
Most of us go through life snatching breath. We are nervous and rushing, trying to stay on the crazy train of life. But when you decide to step off and take a moment or three to breathe, the positive change in your life is magical.
Create the habit of breathing whenever you feel overwhelmed or before you make big decisions and see how your mind gains clarity and your actions become positive. It’s time to slow things down with the habit of breathing mindfully.
Action Item: Remove anger by breathing with intention. Box breathing is a simple and quick breathing exercise that you can turn into a habit before you make big decisions or when you feel like you’re drowning.
Inhale for four seconds. Wait for four seconds. Exhale for four seconds. Hold for four seconds. Inhale and repeat as needed.
Habit #5. Develop Focus
In a fast-paced world, we tend to focus on multitasking as a way to do more. Yet, multitasking is not the most effective way to do things, as you lose time by refocusing on different activities. Making it your habit to focus on one item at a time and getting it done as swiftly and effectively as possible is a great way to ensure your productivity is increased.
Action Item: Practice mindfulness to help you be more present in each moment, instead of rushing through multiple things to concentrate on.
Habit #6. Practice Mental Hygiene
We all shower or bathe at the end of the day as a way to clean our bodies, so why not clean your mind each day? Using meditation as a way to cleanse your thoughts and emotions is a great way to leave the problems of today in today and not carry them to tomorrow.
A clean mind will be a clear mind, so habitually meditating before you go to sleep can help you find balance and clear negativity.
Action Item: Meditate for a few minutes before bed and again in the morning when you get up. Combine this with journaling for a great mental hygiene routine to limit intrusive thoughts that can ruin a day.
Habit #7. Be Mindful of Your Self-Talk
We often don’t notice how we talk to ourselves. Negative self-talk can become a bad habit. Mindfully noticing what you are saying to yourself can help you limit negativity and also encourage self-kindness. Abuse is a habit, and it’s very easy to become abusive of yourself if you’re not careful.
Action Item: Keep a thought journal or notebook, carefully paying attention when your self-talk becomes negative. Replace the bad self-talking habit with one where you use affirmations and positive words to boost your positive inner dialog.
Habit #8. Make Kindness Your Habit
When you live with kindness, you change the world in each action you take. Cultivating kindness as a habit can really change who you are and how you treat others. The result of this habit is that you will become someone who others will gravitate toward. Focus on always seeking the kindest way to do something. Make it your habit to do one kind deed each day.
Action Item: Choose kind actions each day. Perhaps you buy a cup of coffee for the receptionist at work or you tip the doorman each Friday. Whatever your random act of kindness, the habit is to look for a meaningful act you can do each day.
Habit #9. Live With Gratitude
Sadly, many people have turned the word “thank you” into a vestigial concept. We say it, but hardly notice what it means. Living with gratitude is a daily habit of being truly grateful for each positive thing in your life.
When you focus on what you have, you forget about what you think you don’t.
Action Item: At the end of each day, record three things you are grateful for.
Habit #10. Practice Mindful Spending
We quickly get into the habit of spending money when we feel down. It’s a type of false soothing activity, yet it doesn’t have any lasting effects past the euphoric moment when we swipe or tap a bank card. Creating good spending habits is vital to help you live a financially secure life.
Action Item: Create a financial vision board to help you visualize your spending, keep track of what you actually spend, and remember what you want to spend or save for.
Habit #11. Learn to Listen
In a fast-paced world, we often lose a very important habit—listening. We are so busy thinking of what we want to do next, what we want to say, or even just mentally switching off. The result is that we don’t listen to each other. Our habit is to talk, not to listen. Time to reverse that and make listening your habit.
When you listen, you become more aware of the people around you, and it helps minimize conflict. Being a good communicator is about being a good listener.
Action Item: Attend an active listening course or keep notes on what people say as a way to remind you of what they say. Learn to listen with focus, hearing the words spoken and also how they are spoken without first thinking of a reply or jumping to conclusions before the person has finished speaking.
Ask clarifying questions. By asking questions like, “So, if I understand you correctly, you said that …” as a way to check whether you heard correctly.
Habit #12. Read
Despite the availability of reading material via e-readers and apps, people aren’t as inclined to read with focus as when paper-and-ink books were the norm. While we read each day, we often skim across text on our phones, rushing to get to the point or knowledge parcel, which is all neatly bound up with links. Instead of thinking critically, we become somewhat gullible and believe what we read.
Reading with focus and intent is a healthy habit to cultivate. When you read with a critical mindset, you question facts, learn to develop opinions, and grow as a person.
Action Item: Work on your reading speed, learn to read with focus, and reflect on what you read by keeping a reading list and a reading journal. Make a list of all the great books you’d like to read, which authors inspire you, and what type of topics interest you.
Instead of scrolling through social media when you have time, access a free ebook online, and develop your reading habit.
Habit #13. Develop New Skills
As humans, we often get comfortable and stop learning new things. However, this leads to mental decay. When your brain is busy developing new skills and you learn new things as a daily habit, you will find you are getting smarter and wiser.
Action Item: Make a list of all the different things you’ve always wanted to learn about. Each week, choose one item to try out from your list. You don’t have to become an expert at any particular skill, but dip your toes and learn something new each week as a developmental habit to be proud of.
Habit #14. Watch Movies About Life
All too often, we sink into the sofa, and we dissolve into a magical TV world of make-believe. However, habitually watching movies can help you develop your reasoning skills and build empathy. The catch is that you need to watch movies with real life lessons and applicable themes.
Make consuming food for thought your habit, and build yourself mentally and emotionally.
Action Item: Watch a great movie that deals with real human challenges each weekend, and reflect on it with a good friend who also likes to discuss movies.
Habit #15. Make Self-Respect a Habit
Respect is something that comes from within you. It’s about more than just expecting people to not be rude, it’s also about living with dignity. Self-respect can help build a habit of honoring yourself.
When you have self-respect, you will have more respect for others, which will build on your listening habit (through respectful listening). Making self-respect a habit also means you won’t let others disrespect you (as we sometimes do in life if we’re not fully aware).
Action Item: By being mindful of your feelings, treating your body right, and meeting your basic needs, you honor your life, and this leads to self-respect. Make a list of all the ways you can care for yourself as a whole being.
Each day, try to meet three of those needs, even if it’s just to choose a salad instead of a greasy meal, getting half an hour extra sleep, and massaging your own feet. Make these choices habitual and you will have a habit of respect.
Habit #16. Let Go
In life, we have many stressful challenges we face (sometimes daily), and it’s important to develop a habit that is also a mindset of controlling only what you can. If you are going to try and control everything in your life, you will end up controlling nothing, and this means you need to let go of what you know you can’t.
The result is that you will be much less stressed and more relaxed about life and what is in your power.
Action Item: Make a list of all the things you know you can control—yourself, your actions, your emotions, etc. Also, make a list of things you can’t control—other people, the world around you, life and death, etc.
Use a phrase like “I can control myself, the rest I let go of” to get you through the day until this letting go mindset becomes your habit.
Habit #17. Apologize
All too often, we get hard because of life’s bumps and scrapes. We hurt people around us without even noticing, much less apologizing. Not only is it bad manners not to apologize, but it is a poor reflection on your self-awareness and your empathy with others.
Regain these important personal qualities by making it your habit to apologize when you have wronged someone. Don’t just brush it under the rug when you hurt someone—step up with an apology.
Action Item: Make apologizing your habit by reflecting on who you’ve hurt in the last week, month, or year. Write this in your journal and reflect on how you should apologize to those people.
Write a few apology letters to warm up. Next, use each evening’s journaling time to reflect on who you owe an apology. Write a reminder note for each and action an apology the next day (written or verbal).
Habit #18. Practice Self-Care
When people say “self-care,” it always seems like it’s a massive thing for which you need to go to an expensive spa or meditation retreat. As a result, you don’t realize that self-care isn’t a day away, it’s a daily habit.
Self-care helps you own up to your feelings, nurture yourself, and address some of the damage that living in a sometimes hard world can create.
Action Item: Make it a daily habit to engage in at least one self-care activity to help balance the scales in your life. Create a list of activities in your journal for when you don’t know what to pick as your activity, but make it a habit to do one self-care activity each day.
Habit #19. Be Patient
Impatience is one of the reasons for stress, unhappiness, and becoming a generally nasty person. When you live with patience as your habit, you lead a life that is more peaceful, accepting, and forgiving. Tone things down by being habitually patient.
Action Item: Practice patience daily by gently reminding yourself to be patient and tranquil. You can do this by wearing a ribbon on your wrist, carrying a set of prayer beads, or breathing for a few seconds before you make any decisions.
Even when you are ready to do something, wait a few seconds more to slowly develop your patience-stamina.
Habit #20. Eat a Healthy Breakfast
If you’re a coffee-at-Starbucks-kinda person when it comes to breakfast, you’ve just identified a bad habit you need to break. Stopping for a caffeine fix isn’t the problem, but if that’s your breakfast, it’s not ideal.
Habitually having a good breakfast will help you start the day on a good note. Of course, you may do a great selection of healthy breakfast ideas for a week or two, but persisting is the problem, right? Ramp up and have a great breakfast as part of your routine and make it a habit today.
Action Item: Start by getting up earlier. If you wait until your alarm has snoozed five times, you won’t have time to make a nice breakfast, much less start the habit of doing so. Place your alarm across the room, so you have to get up to stop the alarm.
Leave the breakfast ingredients next to the alarm or a picture of the breakfast if you have to take items out of the fridge. Your eyes will do the rest. Here are some great healthy breakfast ideas.
Habit #21. Get Moving
Exercising isn’t always at the top of everyone’s to-do list. Yet, a healthy body is a vital part to a good life. Making that morning sweat-routine part of your life isn’t always easy, especially if being active isn’t your habit.
Action Item: Set aside time each morning or evening (or both) to work out. Don’t stint on time, and encourage yourself by having cool exercise clothes and an area where your exercise equipment is clearly visible as a reminder to practice your habit.
Follow great exercise blogs to motivate you and keep a record on your calendar of each day you exercised.
Habit #22. Start a Weekly Social Media Detox
Another great habit to build is a weekly social media detox. While you may find it hard to avoid going online to see what’s going on in the world (aka trolling celebs), it’s a great mental cleanse to create a habit of setting one day aside where you don’t go online to check out social media.
The purpose of this habit is to give yourself a day away from all the drama, negativity, stereotypical concepts, and addictive content, so you can be more of who you are without outside interference.
Action Item: It may be necessary to have a complete social media detox to help you get started, and then decide which day of the week you’d like to have as your detox day.
Plan fun activities that day to do with your friends or family or use it as a day for self-care. Do anything that doesn’t involve a PC or your phone.
Habit #23. Plan Each Day
It’s so easy to just “wing it” through each day. You know, you have a general idea of what the important things are, but you don’t really assign a time for everything. The problem with that is that you end up not doing much at all.
Make planning each day your habit and you will have a much more satisfied and productive life that is free of unnecessary stress and pressure of falling behind.
Action Item: Planning your day can be a simple habit that you can combine with something you like. If you like listening to music, then take 7 minutes each morning before you leave the house to listen to your favorite songs while you plan out what needs to be done today and when.
Knowing what lies ahead will make for a much more effective life attitude.
Final Thoughts on Good Habits Examples
Having good habits will help your brain carry less load and be more productive. It will also cut down on unnecessary stress caused by harmful or bad habits. Cultivate good habits like listening, reading, making your bed, and being patient today… and you will likely see yourself make great achievements and find personal satisfaction within a year. Maybe less.
And if you feel ready to move on from habits, why not read up on some great life lessons with our guide on 137 life lessons that you should learn.