One 30-second habit can jump start your fitness routine.

Try This 30-Second Trick to Set Healthy Habits

How many times have you set a health goal – and failed? Did your goal sound like one of these?

  • I’m going to lose 10 pounds.
  • I’m going to start exercising every day.
  • I’m going to eat vegetables at every meal.

When we try to change our habits like this, it can seem very daunting.  Even when it’s a habit you want to set, you’re not likely to stick to it. Here’s a new approach to forming habits that simplifies the process and allows you to tackle your goals bit by bit. Developed by professor B.J. Fogg of the Stanford Persuasive Tech Lab, it’s an interactive online program called 3 Tiny Habits. Here’s how you do it. Think of a daily habit you’d like to adopt. Then pare the whole habit down into the first little piece of it. According to Fogg, it should be something you can do in 30 seconds or less and that’s fairly painless to do. Then tie your new habit to a behavior you already do automatically. Phrase it like this “After I do X, I will do Y”. For example:

  • After I get dressed, I’ll pack my gym bag.
  • After I turn on my computer, I will fill my water bottle.
  • After I put my child to bed, I will turn on the exercise video.

As you can see, the idea is that once you initiate the behavior, you’ve set the stage for following through. Of course, the system won’t always work. You may have to refine the behavior you want to start, or the activity you’re tying it to. But once you get the combo right, it’s really easy.

There’s one final step. Each time you remember to do your new behavior, shout “Victory!”  to acknowledge your success. The positive energy reinforces your new habit and makes it automatic. By following the 3 Tiny Habits system, you can establish a habit in as little as a week, Fogg says.

Heather D'Eliso Gordon is a Nutrition Health Coach and Sports Dietitian in the Health Education department of Kaiser Permanente San Francisco. A certified specialist in sports dietetics, Heather works with both recreational and competitive athletes to create optimal nutrition plans that support their fitness goals. She also provides nutrition coaching to Kaiser Permanente patients pursuing weight loss goals or coping with diabetes, high cholesterol, celiac disease, and other conditions.