Wellness

woman brushing teeth

Photo courtesy of Katie Thompson/The Licensing Project

How to Turn Healthy Behaviors into Habits

In partnership with our friends at Dr. Sheffield’s

Developing healthy habits is not a matter of white-knuckling your way through difficult things. It’s about automating what’s good for you. From a body of behavioral science research, we know that people who are good at locking in habits succeed in three areas: reward, repetition, and context.

The book Good Habits, Bad Habits by social psychologist Wendy Wood is a great resource on the ins and outs of behavior change—it draws on decades of research and Wood’s own experiences investigating expert habit-makers, and it’s where we learned this three-pronged approach to making habits stick:

Reward

Especially in the early stages of practicing a behavior, you have to make sure that the actions you’re trying to establish as habit are enjoyable to you in some way. That’s the way people are built: We tend to repeat things that are rewarding. It doesn’t have to be an actual tangible reward—it could be as simple as enjoyment or pride in what you’re doing.

Repetition

Effective habit formation is not about doing one-off activities to get you closer to your desired outcome but about finding one behavior that aligns with your goals and sticking with that thing. In order to establish routines that are automatic and easy to repeat, you have to repeat the same behavior. Consistency is key.

Context

In habit formation, “context” essentially means: Set yourself up for success. Your environment should make it easier to maintain the habit you’re trying to form. Keep the tools you need in the places you need them, and use them at a consistent time or in a consistent order.

We’ve rounded up some tools related to healthy habits from brushing your teeth to becoming the queen of compost. Each of them helps push you in the right direction by boosting at least one aspect of habit formation.

  1. 1

    We hope that brushing your teeth is not a new or difficult habit. However, we do have one way to pump up the reward factor, and its name is Dr. Sheffield’s. Flavored with refreshing natural peppermint and spearmint, Dr. Sheffield’s Natural Extra Whitening toothpaste helps remove stains without fluoride or synthetic detergents. It’s also verified by The Non-GMO Project and certified not tested on animals by Leaping Bunny.

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  2. 2

    Pause. When was the last time you had some water? If you’re sipping as we speak, good for you. If it’s been some time, you might want to consider something like Ulla, a hydration reminder that attaches to your water bottle. Using Ulla is simple and intuitive: If an hour goes by and you haven’t taken a drink, the device blinks to remind you that water exists and you should have some. The device is fully automated, and the battery lasts six months—plenty of time to get consistent about hydration. The reward is reaping the benefits of being well-watered.

  3. 3

    The beauty of a tailored supplement protocol is that it’s a prepackaged habit. By removing early hurdles to consistency (the predrugstore research, the vitamin aisle wandering, the medicine cabinet organization), we designed goop Wellness protocols to leave you with one simple task: Every day, you grab one tidy little packet from the box, open it up, and knock the pills back with a glass of water.

    If you’re looking for something that will help keep you on your A game, we’ll point you to Balls in the Air. Each packet of Balls in the Air contains everything we’re looking for in a general supplement regimen: a multivitamin to support cellular health and overall well-being, an omega-3 capsule containing both EPA and DHA, and three pills to support a healthy immune system and energy levels. One box comes with a thirty-day supply, but since we’re talking habits: Subscribe so you’ll never run out.

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  4. 4

    The key to starting a journal—and keeping it—is to scrap the romantic view of what it should look like. You’re busy. You don’t have time to park yourself at your writing desk every day to take notes for your memoir. So why hold yourself to that standard? Instead, try a journal like this one: You take three minutes in the morning to answer a few questions about what would make today great (in list format—full sentences be damned), then wrap things up at the end of the day with two minutes on how to make tomorrow even better. It’s satisfying and cathartic.

  5. 5

    You know it, we know it: Sunscreen every day. Whether you’re protecting your long-term health, interested in maintaining skin elasticity over time, or are just thinking about warding off tomorrow’s tan lines, an all-mineral sunscreen is a habit worth getting into. (We say all-mineral because the alternative, chemical sunscreen, contains potentially irritating and endocrine-disrupting compounds that may have adverse effects on our health and the health of our ecosystems.) Some tips for automating: Keep it where it’s visible, think of it as nonnegotiable, and get one that smells nice and smooths on like butter.

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    While you’re at it, consider adding a good vitamin D supplement to your wellness routine. While sunlight isn’t great for overall skin health and can be a risk factor for certain cancers, it’s also our main source of vitamin D, which is necessary for maintaining cellular health, strong bones, and a healthy immune system. It’s hard to get enough vitamin D from food—although fatty fish and some mushrooms are decent sources, you’d have to eat a lot of them—so a supplement you take consistently may help close the gap. We include a daily dose of 1,000 IU of vitamin D in each of the goop Wellness supplement protocols, and Hum Nutrition’s Here Comes the Sun contains 2,000 IU per two-capsule serving.

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  7. 7

    Here’s the deal with composting: If you do it, your food scraps turn into soil-enriching humus, which reduces overall waste, nourishes plants, and even reabsorbs harmful carbon-based compounds from the atmosphere in a process called soil carbon sequestration. If you don’t do it, your food scraps get stuck in a landfill where they can’t break down properly, and as a result, they emit methane into the air and contribute to climate change. If that freaks you out as much as it does us, the first step is to get used to collecting your food scraps in a bin, which you can keep either on your countertop for easy access or in your freezer to eliminate all threat of stink. A compost bin that’s biodegradable itself—look for one that’s made out of bamboo—is a great choice.

    Then you have a few options. You can compost in your backyard in a simple box or pile, or you can invest in a compost tumbler: a specialized, mounted barrel that helps maintain your compost without your having to turn the heap by hand twice a week or wait a whole season for your humus to be ready. (This part is less habit and more project—but rewarding all the same.)

    If you can’t or aren’t ready to compost at home, first check with your local waste department to see if green binning your compost is an option. If not, many cities have private services available to pick up your food scraps for a fee. (For example: The city of Santa Monica has a robust composting program as part of its regular waste-disposal services; the city of Los Angeles does not and relies instead on private services and community-built networks like LA Compost for those who can’t compost in their own homes.) However you approach it, a planet-helping habit is a good habit, and a smaller carbon footprint is a reward in itself.

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We hope you enjoy the book recommended here. Our goal is to suggest only things we love and think you might, as well. We also like transparency, so, full disclosure: We may collect a share of sales or other compensation if you purchase through the external links on this page.

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