1. Plan. Identify unhealthy patterns and triggers.

Make a plan that includes small, reasonable goals and specific actions you’ll take to move toward them. Consider what you think you’ll need to be successful. How can you change things around you to support your goals? You might need to stock up on healthy foods, remove temptations, or find a special spot to relax.

2. Change your surroundings. Find ways to make healthier choices easy choices.

Regular things you do—from brushing your teeth to having a few drinks every night—can become habits. Repetitive behaviors that make you feel good can affect your brain in ways that create habits that may be hard to change. Habits often become automatic—they happen without much thought.

3. Ask for support. 

Get friends and loved ones involved. 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.

4. Fill your time with healthy activities. 

Try incorporating your new behavior into something you’re already doing. Although change is difficult, pathways for different ways of thinking and behaving can be created and strengthened with intention, time and effort. With repetition, these new habits get easier and become the norm. 

5. Track your progress.

Doing positive things for yourself can feel exciting and rewarding. But there will also be times when you wonder if you can stick with it. Keeping a record can help. You can use a paper journal, computer program, or mobile app to note things like your diet, exercise, stress levels, or sleep patterns. A study of people who lost at least 30 pounds and kept the weight off for at least a year found that they often tracked their progress closely.

6. Imagine the future. 

Some people have a harder time than others resisting their impulses. This can lead to things like overeating, substance abuse, drinking or shopping too much, or risky sexual behavior. Focusing on how a change might heal your body and enhance your life can help. When you stop smoking, your risk of a heart attack drops within 24 hours. Reducing stress can lead to better relationships. Even small improvements in your nutrition and physical activity can reduce your health risks and lengthen your life.

7. Reward yourself. 

Recognize when you are doing a good job! It’s important to celebrate your day-to-day accomplishments, no matter how big or small. Over time you’ll reap the rewards of a healthier lifestyle.

8. Be patient.

Sometimes when you’re trying to create healthier habits, other health issues can get in the way. A health professional can work with you to address any underlying issues to make change feel easier and to help you be more successful. You’re never too out of shape, too overweight, or too old to make healthy changes. Try different strategies until you find what works best for you and don’t give up.

If you want to start making steps toward real change, trying these tips to create new habits will get you on your way to a new healthier lifestyle.