I’ve become obsessed with the idea of working on my habits – good and bad – in order to optimize my life, feel healthier, and get more done.
This obsession came from James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits, which outlined how we can get into good habits – even people like me, with perhaps not as much willpower as I wish I had!
Generally we consider bad habits to be the ones that don’t serve us well – ones that lead to idleness, procrastination, and failure to achieve our goals and aspirations. By contrast, good habits are those daily routines and activities that get us to where we want to go in our lives: fitness, finances, happy family, and healthy mind. Below, I’ll be exploring examples of both good and bad habits.
60 Good Habits to Start Now
1. Regular Physical Exercise: Putting your body in motion on a consistent basis, boosting your overall health.
2. Nutritious Diet: Consuming a balanced mix of fruits, vegetables, proteins, and grains while avoiding excessive sugars and processed foods.
3. Daily Reading: The practice of reading every day expands your knowledge and improves mental agility.
4. Balanced Budgeting: The habit of responsibly managing your finances by ensuring your income covers your expenses, and includes saving for future needs.
5. Regular Sleep: Maintaining a consistent daily cycle of restful sleep, priming your body and mind for optimum performance.
6. Mindful Meditation: Practicing mindfulness can improve mental health and well-being by reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.
7. Lifelong Learning: Engaging in continuous learning fosters cognitive growth and enhances professional development.
8. Time Management: Efficiently managing your time increases productivity and lowers stress levels.
9. Community Involvement: Participating in volunteer work not only enriches the community but also nurtures personal growth.
10. Environmental Consciousness: Making lifestyle choices that minimize harm to the environment (like using less plastic or driving an electric car) promotes sustainability.
11. Staying Hydrated: Ensuring daily water intake is sufficient (eight 8-ounce glasses is the general recommendation) promotes good health.
12. Regular Medical Checkups: Keeping up-to-date with vaccines and regular health checkups helps manage potential health risks.
13. Protective Sun Care: Wearing sunscreen or avoiding direct sun exposure (especially between 10 AM & 4 PM) reduces risks of skin disease.
14. Positive Affirmations: Practicing positive self-talk or affirmations prompts mental and emotional growth.
15. Maintaining Personal Hygiene: Regular practices like washing hands, brushing teeth, and bathing promote health and prevent disease.
16. Proper Posture: Maintaining a good posture reduces risk of back pain, muscle fatigue, and other physical problems.
17. Brushing and Flossing: Regular dental hygiene (like brushing twice a day and flossing daily) protects your oral health.
18. Stress Management: Using coping mechanisms like deep breathing or yoga helps in handling stressful situations.
19. Balanced Work-Life: Ensuring separated time for both work and relaxation can increase overall happiness and productivity.
20. Healthy Relationships: Building a network of supportive, meaningful relationships contributes to mental and emotional well-being.
21. Regular Journaling: Writing down thoughts and experiences on a regular basis can enhance cognitive functioning and emotional well-being.
22. Cognitive Stimulation: Engaging in activities that stimulate the brain (like puzzles or crosswords) promotes cognitive health.
23. Active Listening: Practicing active listening strengthens relationships and enhances communication skills.
24. Digital Detox: Taking regular breaks from digital devices can decrease stress levels and improve productivity.
25. Self-reflection: Taking time to reflect on your actions and feelings contributes to personal growth and well-being.
26. Balanced Screen Time: Regulating the time spent in front of screens (computers, phones, etc.) can prevent vision issues and mental fatigue.
27. Clean Living Spaces: Keeping your living surroundings clean leads to a healthier and more relaxed mind.
28. Mindful Eating: Paying attention to your food intake (quality and quantity) can contribute to maintaining a healthy weight.
29. Goal Setting: Determining short and long-term goals provides direction and improves decision-making skills.
30. Sincere Communication: Proceeding with conversations in an open, serious, and respectful fashion nurtures better relationships.
31. Regular Stretching: Regularly stretching your muscles promotes flexibility and helps prevent injuries.
32. Exploring Nature: Spending time outdoors, whether it’s hiking in the mountains or simply a walk in the park, contributes to mental relaxation and physical fitness.
33. Continuous Improvement: Continually seeking to better oneself fosters personal growth and self-confidence.
34. Cultivating Gratitude: Regularly recognizing and expressing gratitude positively impacts overall happiness and satisfaction.
35. Prioritizing Mental Health: Engaging in practices to protect and nurture mental health, such as therapy or counseling when necessary, supports overall well-being.
36. Financial Planning: Regular analysis and adjustment of your financial plan can ensure a secure present and future.
37. Intentional Breaks: Taking deliberate short breaks during work hours can increase productivity and concentration.
38. Vocabulary Expansion: The practice of learning new words every day helps boost your communication skills.
39. Proactive Problem Solving: Addressing and solving problems immediately can prevent them from escalating.
40. Continuing Education: Pursuing additional educational opportunities, formal or informal, can enhance professional skills and personal knowledge.
41. Bereavement Plans or Rituals: Having plans or rituals for dealing with grief can offer solace and structure in turbulent times.
42. Emotional Intelligence Development: Actively working on your emotional intelligence can enrich personal and professional relationships.
43. Cultivating Compassion: Practicing kindness to others fosters a sense of community and individual fulfillment.
44. Mindful Spending: Keeping track of your spending habits and making informed purchase decisions can protect your financial health.
45. Embracing Diversity: Actively seeking to understand and appreciate diverse cultures and perspectives can foster personal growth and societal harmony.
46. Investing in Quality Items: Opting for durable, higher-quality items (like a solid piece of furniture or a reliable car) can result in long-term cost savings.
47. Practicing Empathy: Endeavoring to understand and share the feelings of others enhances social connections.
48. Routine House Maintenance: Regular upkeep of your living space can prevent larger issues and costly repairs in the future.
49. Regular Eye Exams: Scheduling eye check-ups periodically can contribute to better general health and detect potential vision problems early.
50. Cultivating Patience: Developing the practice of patience can lead to lower stress levels and increased satisfaction with life.
51. Regular Hobby Participation: Engaging in hobbies that you enjoy can add richness to your life and lower stress levels.
52. Establishing a Morning Routine: Starting your day with a structured routine can set the tone for a productive day.
53. Active Transportation: Choosing to walk or cycle instead of driving, where possible, encourages physical exercise and reduces carbon emissions.
54. Healthy Conflict Resolution: Employing effective techniques to solve disagreements fosters better personal and professional relationships.
55. Listening to Educational Podcasts: Listening to podcasts on subjects of interest or relevance promotes continuous learning.
56. Cultivating Optimism: Frequent practice of looking on the positive side of situations can improve mental health and boost resilience.
57. Engagement in Civic Duties: Taking part in local or national activities (like voting or attending public meetings) enhances societal responsibility.
58. Frequent Role-Playing: Enacting different scenarios improves decision-making skills and promotes empathy.
59. Sustainability Practices: Implementing practices that reduce environmental impact (e.g., composting, recycling, or the use of solar panels) benefits the health of the planet.
60. Using Ergonomic Furniture: Regular use of furniture designed for efficiency and comfort can help reduce physical strain and potential injuries.
61. Waking up Early: Being in the habit of waking up early can help you get a headstart on the day, helping you to “get out of the right side of bed!”
60 Bad Habits to Quit Immediately
62. Skipping Breakfast: Neglecting the first meal of the day can result in poor energy management and vitamin intake.
63. Excessive Caffeine Intake: Consuming excessive quantities of caffeine can lead to sleep disturbances and anxiety disorders.
64. Late Nights: Regularly staying up late disrupts your sleep cycle, leading to chronic fatigue.
65. Frequent Fast Food Consumption: A high intake of processed foods leads to various health complications.
66. Neglecting Dental Hygiene: Neglecting regular brushing and flossing contributes to oral diseases.
67. Ignoring Regular Health Checkups: Forgoing regular health screenings can allow potential issues to go unnoticed.
68. Spending Beyond Means: Repeatedly overspending can lead to significant financial trouble.
69. Viewing Excessive TV or Screen Time: Long hours in front of screens can lead to vision problems and sedentary behavior.
70. Procrastination: Regularly delaying tasks can lead to stress, poor quality of work, and time management struggles.
71. Binge Eating: Eating large amounts of food in a short time can contribute to obesity and other health issues.
72. Excessive Noise Exposure: Regular exposure to high noise levels can lead to hearing loss and stress.
73. Chronic Multitasking: Attempting to juggle multiple tasks at once can decrease overall productivity and increase stress.
74. Regular Dehydration: Not drinking enough water impacts physical and cognitive functioning negatively.
75. Neglect of Regular Exercise: Lack of regular physical activity can lead to multiple health problems.
76. Poor Posture: Maintaining bad posture over time can lead to joint and back issues.
77. Overuse of Social Media: Spending too much time on social platforms can undermine mental health.
78. Neglecting Relationships: Ignoring important relationships can lead to feelings of isolation and emotional stress.
79. Chronic Pessimism: A persistent negative outlook can dampen one’s mood and outlook on life.
80. Holding on to Grudges: Refusing to forgive can lead to persistent stress and damage personal relationships.
81. Overcommitting: Failing to keep a manageable workload can lead to stress and burnout.
82. Neglecting Self-Care: Not taking enough time for personal care and relaxation can undermine mental health.
83. Living in Clutter: A cluttered living environment can increase stress and reduce productivity.
84. Skipping Sunscreen: Neglecting to protect your skin from the sun can cause premature ageing and skin diseases.
85. Ignoring Warning Signs of Stress: Failing to acknowledge and manage stress can lead to various health issues.
86. Disregarding Emotional Health: Not addressing mental or emotional issues can exacerbate them over time.
87. Eating Too Quickly: Rushing mealtime can disrupt digestion and lead to weight gain.
88. Ignoring Sleep Hygiene: Failing to instill good sleep habits can result in poor quality sleep and related health issues.
89. Avoiding Difficult Conversations: Dodging tough discussions can lead to unresolved conflicts and strained relationships.
90. Impulsive Shopping: Habitual impulsive buying can lead to financial hardships.
91. Neglecting Personal Safety: Overlooking safety measures (such as not wearing seat belts or ignoring fire alarms) can put lives at risk.
92. Inconsistent Work Hours: Irregular working hours may lead to burnout and negatively impact personal life.
93. Limited Social Interactions: Avoiding social engagement can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.
94. Not Prioritizing Education: Ignoring opportunities for further education can limit personal and professional growth.
95. Neglecting to Recycle: Failing to recycle when possible contributes to environmental pollution.
96. Excessive Criticism of Self and Others: Constant critical outlook can lead to lower self-esteem and damaged relationships.
97. Not Following a Balanced Diet: Ignoring dietary needs may lead to nutrition-related health complications.
98. Constant Rushing: Always being in a hurry may increase stress levels and result in uncompleted tasks.
99. Lack of Creative Outlets: Absence of hobbies or creative pursuits might lead to feeling unfulfilled or stressed.
100. Excess Sugar Consumption: High sugar intake can contribute to obesity, tooth decay, and diabetes.
101. Ignoring Pain or Discomfort: Failing to address persistent physical discomfort can lead to serious health conditions.
102. Obsession with Perfection: Striving for unattainable perfection can result in increased stress and feelings of inadequacy.
103. Disrespect of Personal Boundaries: Ignoring personal and others’ boundaries can lead to unhealthy relationships and conflict.
104. Lack of Hygiene: Ignoring basic hygiene practices might cause health problems and social discomfort.
105. Irregular Eating Habits: Irregular meal times can disrupt metabolic health and contribute to weight gain.
106. Inadequate Sun Protection: Failure to protect the skin from the sun (like neglecting to wear hats or sunglasses) can lead to eye damage and skin conditions.
107. Infrequent Hand Washing: Not adhering to regular hand washing can cause the spread of germs and increase the risk of falling ill.
108. Chronic Lateness: Frequently being late can convey disrespect for others’ time and cause stress.
109. Excessive Use of Disposable Items: Over-reliance on single-use items contributes to environmental damage.
110. Impulsive Decision-Making: Acting without consideration can lead to undesired circumstances and regret.
111. Neglecting Mental Health Services: Avoiding mental health support when needed can exacerbate emotional issues and undermine overall well-being.
112. Overconsumption of Salt: Consuming too much salt can lead to conditions such as hypertension and heart disease.
113. Being Passive-Aggressive: Communicating in a passive-aggressive manner can strain relationships and foster misunderstanding.
114. Minimal Physical Activity: Lack of movement, such as sitting all day, can increase the risk of various health issues.
115. Keeping a Messy Workplace: A cluttered workspace can affect productivity and increase stress.
116. Over-Dependence on Convenience Foods: Relying on prepackaged or fast foods too often can lead to poor nutritional intake and health issues.
117. Hoarding Unnecessary Items: Accumulating unused goods can cause clutter and might hint at emotional issues.
118. Ignoring Safety Rules: Not following safety precautions (like driving without a seatbelt or speeding) can be dangerous.
119. Negative Self-Talk: Engaging in destructive inner dialogues can undermine self-esteem and well-being.
120. Blaming Others: Consistently blaming others for your mistakes fosters a lack of accountability.
121. Sedentary Lifestyle: Engaging in minimal physical activity can lead to health issues.
How to “Get into a Habit”
James Clear, author of Atomic Habits has the best methods of getting into a habit that I’ve ever found. He presents the following strategies:
- Make it Obvious:
- Cue: Every habit begins with a cue or a trigger to act. Clear emphasizes the importance of making these cues obvious if you’re trying to establish a new habit.
- Habit Stacking: Clear suggests pairing a new habit with a current habit. For example, “After I pour my morning coffee, I will meditate for one minute.” This ties the new habit to a well-established routine.
- Environment: Clear also underscores the power of the environment in shaping our behavior. By redesigning our environment, we can make the cues for our desired habits more obvious.
- Make it Attractive:
- Temptation Bundling: This is about pairing an action you want to do with an action you need to do. By doing so, you make the habit more appealing.
- Belonging: We adopt habits that are in line with the communities we join or the identities we wish to adopt. When behaviors are part of our identity or that of a group we wish to join, they become more attractive.
- Make it Easy:
- Friction: Clear suggests reducing the friction associated with good habits and increasing the friction related to bad habits. For instance, if you want to read more, keep a book near your bed or favorite chair.
- Priming the Environment: Set up your environment so it’s easier to engage in the good habit. If you want to exercise in the morning, set out your workout clothes the night before.
- Two-Minute Rule: Start a new habit by making it easy and short — less than two minutes to accomplish. This helps you get started and can be expanded upon later.
- Make it Satisfying:
- Immediate Rewards: Immediate satisfaction makes a habit more enticing. While many good habits have delayed rewards (e.g., the benefits of exercising), try to find a way to enjoy them in the short term.
- Habit Tracking: Keeping track of your habits can itself be satisfying. Seeing a streak grow can be motivating.
- Accountability: Having someone to hold you accountable can make it more satisfying to maintain a habit and more unsatisfying to break it.
Reflect on your habits – good and bad – and try to find ways to make it easier to lean into the good (such as use of immediate rewards, habit stacking, and using cues), while creating friction to prevent the bad (such as putting your phone in a different room).
Clear, J. (2018). Atomic habits: An easy & proven way to build good habits & break bad ones. New York: Penguin.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]