How to develop strong health habits

“I am your greatest helper or heaviest burden. I will push you onward or drag you down to failure. I am completely at your command. Half of the things you do you might as well turn over to me and I will do them – quickly and correctly. I am easily managed – you must be firm with me. Show me exactly how you want something done and after a few lessons, I will do it automatically. I am the servant of great people, and alas, of all failures as well…I am not a machine though I work with the precision of a machine – plus the intelligence of a person…Take me, train me, be firm with me, and I will place the world at your feet. Be easy with me and I will destroy you. Who am I? I am HABIT.” (

My Sun City friend, Mary Beth Dalof, recently gave me this poem from HealthQuest Radio located in West Dundee. Her accompanying brochure, AWAKE!/No. 4 2016, teaches all of us how to develop and foster good physical and mental habits to strengthen our well-being as we age. Here are three simple suggestions that will help you to make sound habit development, whether it be quitting smoking, increasing social life through charter club or support group volunteering, or stimulating one’s mind with appropriate reading material:

Be realistic

1. Create two master lists of good and bad habits.

2. Prioritize these behaviors in their importance to you.

3. At first, choose only one or two of these habits from each list. Make changes gradually, rather than changing everything at once. You can speed up the process by aiming to replace a bad habit with a good one.

Manage your environment

1. Make it harder to do the wrong thing by eliminating that item from your surroundings (for instance, stop purchasing unhealthy foods to be placed in your refrigerator).

2. Make it easier to do the right thing by planning ahead (for instance, preparing exercise clothes the night before for early morning workouts).

3. Choose your friends carefully (for instance, if wanting to lose weight, limit friendships with people having poor food habits and non-daily physical activity. Instead, add social contacts with acquaintances eating healthy diets and exercising daily.

Take a long-range view

1. Become goal-oriented. ”There is a popular notion that it takes 21 days to cement a new habit. In reality, though, research shows that it can take some people less time – and others a lot more – to make significant changes,” according to our brochure.

2. Expect to face setbacks as you work towards your goal.

3. Focus on times that go well. AWAKE! informs us “What counts in the end is, not how many times we fall, but how many times we get up again.”

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