Learn how to build healthy habits with these 7 tips.
At EveryDose, we help our users build better habits around medication-taking on a daily basis. We wanted to share some of the same practices we integrate into our programs and software with you.
But before we dive into how to build better habits, first, let’s clear up some misconceptions about habit building. Many people have heard the adage that it takes about 21 days to form a habit. At first glance, it seems to make sense. As author James Clear puts it, “The time frame is short enough to be inspiring but long enough to be believable.[i] And who wouldn’t like the idea of changing your life in just three weeks?”
Unfortunately, there is no magic number of days when it comes to building a habit. It all depends on the individual, and every person is unique!
So why did 21 days become a popular myth? The 21-day concept stems from the work of Dr. Maxwell Maltz (not to be confused with our medication assistant named Maxwell). Dr. Maltz was a plastic surgeon who, after performing procedures on patients, noticed it took around 21 days for them to get comfortable with their new nose, face or other physical changes after surgery. The misunderstanding comes from the fact that Dr. Maltz claimed it took a minimum of 21 days for his patients to become comfortable with their new physical characteristics.[ii] For other patients, it took a much longer time. Some studies today suggest that the number is much closer to 60 days, instead of 21.[iii]
As you continue to work on your habits, you should keep in mind that it takes every person a different amount of time to get into their “groove.” To help you out, we have provided 7 tips for building better habits.
1. Set a goal for yourself and write it down
Have a measurable realistic goal in mind, often referred to as a “SMART” goal. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. It’s ok to start small with building habits, but you should also have a long-term vision for what you want to achieve. Do a bit of self-reflection on why you want to build the habit you’ve set forth and what you want to accomplish by achieving your goal. This will help you focus. Setting smaller timeframes as milestones will also boost your confidence and help you slowly work your way toward your goal.
Lastly, write your goal down. The act of writing it down gives it just a bit more meaning. Feel free to post it in a place where you will see it every day if you think that will be helpful.
Here’s a more in-depth guide on how to build SMART goals.[iv]
2. Build your desired habit into your existing routines
It is a lot easier to build habits into the routines that you already have. It makes it less likely that something will interrupt your routine if you already things scheduled into your calendar. Doing the same thing at the same time also makes it much easier to remember. Sometimes it’s helpful to schedule tasks directly after a certain part of your routine, like always doing a specific task after lunch. This is a tactic that patients who are struggling to remember their medications often use.
3. Track your progress
Tracking your progress is great for holding yourself accountable. It is also a great way to build confidence and encourage yourself as you see your progress grow!
Furthermore, a few missed days of your habit here and there may seem small but over a month they may add up. You’ll be able to tell when you review your progress. It might be helpful to find a tool that helps you keep tabs on your success rates. At EveryDose, we send our app users timely updates about their medication-taking habits, so they know how they are performing. Below is a list of habit-building tools that may help you on your journey.
Here’s a link for some good tools to help you out![v]
4. Ask for help from family and friends
Tracking your progress may help you hold yourself accountable, but there is nothing wrong with asking for help from friends and family. Not only does telling other people about your goal hold you accountable to another person, but it also gives you an ally who can help you achieve your goal.
Sharing your goals not only makes you feel accountable, but some studies suggest it fills a social connection as well![vi]
5. Surround yourself with encouragement
Having an ally that encourages you is proven to help you accomplish your goal faster than not having external encouragement. So, make sure the people you are sharing your goals with are there to encourage and provide positive reinforcement. This study shows that encouragement leads to significantly better performance![vii] Plus, it’s great to be able to celebrate your accomplishments with someone who has seen the steps you have taken to build your new habit.
6. Remember no one is perfect
Everyone makes mistakes now and then. Don’t let one missed day of your habit throw you off your groove. Keep pushing yourself to stick with your goal and you’ll start to notice those misses become a lot easier to avoid. Use your support network (if you have one) if you find yourself struggling.
7. Use technology to your advantage
If you can use your phone to keep a schedule, journal your thoughts or feelings about your progress, or to send yourself reminders or alarms, then it will make it that much easier for you to build a habit. Also, technology should help you share your progress with the people who are providing support and encouragement to you!
At EveryDose we’ve taken the above advice to heart when building our medication management app. We provide users with an easy-to-use reminder system to ensure they always take their meds on time! Plus, with the average adult spending almost 3 hours a day on their phone we created a medication management tool that goes where you already are! You can also share your medication management progress with a friend to help you stay on track. We also send you progress reports which you can access daily to see how you’re doing!
Try the EveryDose app for yourself.
Cover photo by Unsplash
[i] “How Long Does It Actually Take to Form a New Habit? (Backed by Science).” James Clear, 4 Feb. 2020, https://jamesclear.com/new-habit.
[ii] Selk, Jason. “Habit Formation: The 21-Day Myth.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 10 Dec. 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonselk/2013/04/15/habit-formation-the-21-day-myth/#62168852debc.
[iii] “Stop Expecting to Change Your Habit in 21 Days.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 21 Oct. 2009, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-happiness-project/200910/stop-expecting-change-your-habit-in-21-days.
[iv] Boogaard, Kat. “How to Write Smart Goals (with Examples).” Work Life by Atlassian, Atlassian, 3 Jan. 2022, https://www.atlassian.com/blog/productivity/how-to-write-smart-goals.
[v] “15 Best Habit-Tracking Apps for Sticking to Your Goals.” Develop Good Habits, 22 Oct. 2021, https://www.developgoodhabits.com/habit-tracking-apps/.
[vi] Evans, Lisa. “Why Sharing Your Progress Makes You More Likely to Accomplish Your Goals.” Fast Company, Fast Company, 19 June 2015, https://www.fastcompany.com/3047432/why-sharing-your-progress-makes-you-more-likely-to-accomplish-your-goals.
[vii] Andreacci, Joseph L, et al. “The Effects of Frequency of Encouragement on Performance during Maximal Exercise Testing.” Journal of Sports Sciences, U.S. National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12003280/.