Making the decision to get up early and be active every morning seems easy enough. It's more difficult to actually do it.

Trying to develop good habits, and get rid of bad ones, is an ongoing process.

How habits are formed

Psychological research shows that simply repeating an action in a consistent context, such as washing your hands after using the bathroom, creates an association that means you always repeat the same action in that context.

Once you act automatically based on external cues outside your control, like the sun coming up, you no longer have to consciously decide or motivate yourself to do it. That's a habit. Habits can be good or bad for you. It all depends on the context.

Whether you should lose a habit largely depends on your own life and values, as well as your environment and culture. Generally, if a habit is negatively impacting your physical or mental health, you should work on changing it.

How to go from bad to good

Before we can develop better habits, we often need to first break existing ones. Start small and be prepared to have setbacks. Change is not going to happen overnight.

Aim for minor, manageable behaviour changes, since failure can be discouraging. For example, if you you're sedentary, but want to be more active, start by walking five minutes a day. 

Be kind to yourself. Deciding to change any habit is the first, and often most difficult step. People generally don’t like change. You have to just do the behavioural change over and over again. So if it’s waking up early, just force yourself to do it.

Your good habit toolbox:

  1. Decide what you'd like to change about yourself.
  2. Start small and choose a simple action that will get you closer to your goal.
  3. When and where will you do this action? Planning can help with consistency.
  4. Every time you’re at that time and place, do that action. Having a buddy to do it with, or check in on you, can help immensely. Also, try to associate the desired habit with something specific, such as your alarm going off or finishing work.
  5. Studies differ on how long it takes to form a habit; in general, the length of time depends on each person. However, on average, it takes 66 days for a new behaviour to become automatic.