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How to Start a New Habit and Keep It


Every day, we make decisions that shape our lives. Some are small, like walking an extra mile each day—others big, like quitting smoking. And it should be no surprise that starting these habits doesn’t necessarily mean they actually stick.

We’ve all experienced the backslide—it’s not always easy to change our ways. How we live and operate is firmly rooted in our brains.

For many of our daily habits, like brushing our teeth or driving, we’re on autopilot. This makes starting a new habit a conscious effort that goes against what our brains are used to doing. So, how do you stick to new habits? The key is changing your expectations.


Be honest about what you’re capable of

Try to start realistic habits. You’re more likely to stay motivated to make a change when it isn’t drastic. For example, if your goal is to start running, you can start off by walking every day to get adjusted to the change. Once you get comfortable with the new habit, change things up slightly again.


Don’t rush things

Starting a new habit takes time. Don’t expect it to happen right away—it’s estimated to take as much as 66 days for a habit to stick. That being said, you probably won’t notice the day-to-day improvements you’re making. Keeping track of your changes in a journal or on your phone can help you track your progress.


Recognize the middle ground

Sticking to your goals isn’t a simple pass or fail. Think of it like a spectrum—you can make progress on your habits even if you’re not fully where you want to be yet. Recognizing what you have achieved so far will help you stay motivated and avoid backsliding into your old ways.


The more motivation you have, the easier it is to reach your goals. If you’re looking for extra help, the Online Health Coach (OHC) is here for you. Eligible Standard and Basic Option members can even receive $40 for each eligible goal completed, up to three, for $120 total.*


*You must be 18 or older and the contract holder or spouse on a Standard or Basic Option plan to earn this reward.

Published on: December 31, 2021