Habits are important. Okay, understatement of the century. Habits can truly transform our mental and physical health. The little decisions we make. The daily behaviours we act on. These habits (both good and bad) add up more than we realize. That’s why it’s crucial to implement healthy habits and break bad ones.
But how? That’s the million-dollar question. And we’re about to answer it (minus the whole ‘million dollar’ thing). Let’s explore the psychology behind habits, how to form and change habits, and the healthy habits that are most vital for your well-being.
What is a habit? Why are habits important?
A habit is when a behaviour feels automatic. As in, you perform the task with minimal brain power or conscious awareness.
Think about reaching for your phone. For so many of us, it’s become habitual. You don’t have to think much (or at all) about it before picking it up and checking your notifications. (If you think you’re exempt from this habit, go check your screen time and circle back—we’ll be waiting.)
Some habits are good for us, while others have a negative impact. And once a habit is adopted, changing it can be challenging—but not impossible.
How do habits form?
Habits are almost entirely psychological. In fact, MIT researchers discovered a three-step neurological pattern that forms every single habit.
- Cue: This is the first trigger that prompts the behaviour. The cue tells your brain to perform the habit automatically.
- Routine: The routine is the habit itself. What is the action your brain is telling you to take?
- Reward: Most habits are formed because there’s some sort of reward when the behaviour is performed. Instant rewards are easier to commit to while habits with delayed rewards are more difficult for your brain to adopt. The more your brain craves the reward, the easier it will be for you to perform that specific habit subconsciously.
Let’s use the phone example again to see how this works:
Cue: Your phone lights up, makes a noise, or vibrates. This is the cue to tell your brain you have a notification to check. And you better check it—it could be your crush.
Routine: The act of picking up the phone and tapping on the notification. Is it your crush?
Reward: Yes! Your crush texted you. Your brain gets a shot of dopamine and the instant reward has been satisfied. Now every time your phone lights up, your brain will remember the associated reward and trigger you to check the notification.
How long does it take for a habit to form?
TBH, it depends. Different studies show different time frames. Some experts say 30 days is all you need to establish a habit. Some say 3 months. Other studies suggest it could take up to nine months.
Although the jury’s out on the exact time frame, consistency is key. The more committed you are to the behaviour, the quicker the habit will develop.
How can you form new habits?
There are so many ways to introduce new habits into your life. The trick is finding ways to stick to them and make them truly habitual.
Understanding the cue-routine-reward formula is the first step. Integrate healthy triggers and rewards and the routine itself slowly becomes subconscious.
Here are a few more habit-forming methods to help you along the way:
- Make deliberate changes to your environment. Trying to eat healthier? Make sure there are only healthy snacks in your kitchen for those moments when you’re craving an entire pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Or ask a friend to cook healthy meals with you instead of going out. These small adjustments to your surroundings, actions, and relationships can remove distracting influences and make it easier to form new habits.
- Start small. Don’t overwhelm yourself with lofty goals or a stack of new habits. Start with an attainable behaviour, do it every day, and grow from there.
- Repeat, repeat, repeat. Repeating the habit consistently makes it easier for your brain to access the trigger and take subconscious action.
- Don’t skip the rewards. This third part of habit forming is often the most important. Unexpected rewards release dopamine in the brain, which helps you remember the rewarding experience and repeat the behaviour in the future.
- Set daily reminders. Phone alarms, sticky notes on your mirror, texts from friends—whatever it is that will remind you to take action on a new habit, do it.
- Group habits together. Leverage an existing habit to form a new one. For example, imagine you want to write in your journal every day. You drink coffee every morning, so you make it a rule that you must journal while you enjoy your coffee. Since coffee is already a learned habit, you can piggyback off it to insert the new habit into your daily life.
- Enlist an accountability buddy. Most of us feel more obligated to perform a habit if someone else is expecting it. Ask someone (or a group of people) you trust to do the habit with you and count on each other to keep it up.
- Write it down. Don’t underestimate how powerful putting pen to paper can be. Writing your habit down transforms it from an internal desire to a more tangible goal.
- Swap one habit for another. Let’s say coffee has become a negative habit for you and you now want to drink decaf only. Use the current coffee habit to your advantage—the same time of day, the same mug, the same flavour—and swap to decaf. Your brain already knows the cue and routine. It’s just the reward that your brain might need some time adjusting to.
How can you change or break a habit?
Once again, the trick here is to think critically about the cue-routine-reward formula. For example:
- What is the cue that triggers my current habit? Is there a way I can adapt or avoid that trigger?
- What exactly is the habit? How present am I when I’m performing it?
- What is the reward I experience from performing that habit? Is the reward really serving me or making me happy long-term?
By better understanding each part of the habit, you can gain more control over it.
Another way to change a habit is to swap it for another (as we mentioned in the previous section). Adopting a healthier version of the habit is easier for your brain than trying to quit the habit altogether.
What healthy habits can improve your overall well-being?
Your well-being is like a collage—different habits overlapping to make one cohesive, functional system. If some habits are lacking, others will try and pick up the slack. The goal is to implement habits that cover all bases so your health can remain balanced.
Overall, here are the most crucial habits to adopt to keep your body and mind as healthy as possible:
- Exercise every day (in whatever way feels best for your body)
- Don’t skip breakfast (it absorbs the most nutrients out of any meal)
- Get 7-9 hours of quality sleep every night
- Manage your stress levels (through meditation, yoga, exercise, therapy—whatever works for you)
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet
- Take care of your essential bodily functions, like your urinary tract, digestive system, and cardiovascular health
What habits should you implement for a healthy urinary tract?
The more you take care of your well-being, the more your urinary tract will benefit. But if you’re one of the many people who suffer from UTIs, overactive bladder, or other urinary conditions, there are healthy habits that specifically target your urinary tract. For example:
- Drink lots of water to keep bacteria flowing out of your urinary tract.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol intake. They can stimulate bacteria growth.
- Pee before and after sex to clear any new bacteria.
- Always wipe from front to back after using the bathroom. This keeps E.coli away from your urethra.
- Take probiotics for UTI prevention. A daily probiotic that contains Lactobacillus is best to ensure healthy levels of good bacteria.
- Do pelvic floor exercises to strengthen the muscles that control your bladder.
- Take daily supplements to support your urinary tract, like cranberry pills.
What are the best cranberry pills for UTI?
Meet Utiva Cranberry PACs—the essential UTI supplement, especially for those who suffer from recurrent UTIs.
PACs, also known as proanthocyanidins, are powerful, all-natural nutrients found in cranberries. In small doses, they don’t do much. But when carefully concentrated and formulated, PACs is proven to stop harmful bacteria from sticking to your urinary tract.
Utiva Cranberry PACs provides 36mg of soluble PACs per dose. That’s equivalent to 9 regular cranberry pills—in one easy-to-swallow capsule. And because of its superior 15% concentration, Utiva Cranberry PACs is proven to fight a range of bacteria, including E.coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Enterococcus faecalis.
Utiva Cranberry PACs has also been recognized by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC). That means it has been carefully reviewed by a panel of medical professionals to confirm it’s a safe and effective supplement—all based on scientific evidence.
And the best part about this habit? It’s really easy to implement. Just take one capsule each day and your urinary tract will stay healthy, happy, and UTI-free. Click here to learn more about why doctors recommend Utiva Cranberry PACs.