Menu Close

Foolproof Way to Create Healthier Habits

Researchers at MIT discovered that there is a 3-step neurological pattern that forms the basis of every habit.

“Ksshhhhhh. Pop!”

The cold, sweet carbonated goodness tastes just as delicious as you remembered as you down your first soda of the day. You debated all morning whether you should drink one or not because you know it’s a terrible habit and you want to stop…

Actually, you’ve tried more times than you can count to break up with it and even had some success for a few days, weeks, and once even for a couple of months.

But then life got stressful and you started hitting snooze on your alarm instead of getting up early to meditate and exercise and now you rely on that soda in the morning and afternoon for a quick burst of energy.  

Before you even realize what’s happening, other pesky habits start to creep into your life: binge-watching Netflix, mindlessly scrolling through social media for hours, indulging in fast food far more often than you care to admit, hitting snooze on your alarm clock multiple times every morning, and incessantly thinking negative thoughts about yourself and your life.

We’ve all been there.

In this new blog series, I’m excited to share with you scientifically-backed ways you can make sustainable, life-lasting changes that everyone (yes, even you) are capable of making.

What is a Habit?

Researchers at MIT discovered that there is a 3-step neurological pattern that forms the basis of every habit:

  1. Cue: anything that triggers a habit (Example: your alarm goes off in the morning)
  2. Routine: the behavior itself (Example: you hit snooze)
  3. Reward: positive reinforcement for the behavior (Example: you get to sleep an extra 10 minutes)

Two key components of habit transformation are:

  • Rewarding yourself in ways that are personally meaningful to you
  • Starting out by modifying a behavior that is so easy you can’t say no to it (Example: Behavioral Scientist BJ Fogg suggests if you want to get in the habit of flossing your teeth every night, start by just flossing one. You can’t say no to that!)

Habit Writing Exercise

We’re going to begin with this effective writing exercise. Don’t skip this step! People who write down their dreams and goals on a regular basis are 42% more likely to achieve them.  

  1. [Without judgement] consider which bad habits you want to break up with the most. You can do this over the course of several minutes or several days. The key is to be honest.
  2. Allow yourself to think freely and to fully embrace what habits you want to change, even the ones that you think are going to be too hard or impossible to rid yourself of and yes, even the ones that you feel so addicted to you’re torn on whether you even want to give them up or not.  Allow yourself to entertain the idea that you can change them.
  3. Ask yourself why you want to change these habits. Again, allow yourself to think without restraint and be honest.
  4. Now that you’ve spent sufficient time thinking about what you want to change and why, write down a list of your bad habits and the good habits you want to replace them with.  This doesn’t have to be perfect. Nobody has to see what you write, allow yourself to without reserve or overthinking write down what you dream of changing the most.
  5. Lastly, write down simple, sustainable steps you can take to transform your bad habits into good ones and set up a game plan of what to do when you’re tempted to stray.  Spoiler alert: it’s a normal, expected part of the process to “mess up” while you’re making a change, so don’t get discouraged if you do!
Here’s an example…

Bad Habit

Sleeping in and hitting snooze on my alarm clock too many times.

Replacement Habit

Waking up at 5:30am every morning.


I want to wake up 5:30am so that I have time to myself every morning. On the days that I do wake up at this time I notice that I am generally happier, more fulfilled, peaceful, focused, and productive than the days that I repeatedly hit snooze.


I will read several different articles (both scientific and inspirational) on the benefits of waking up early.

Instead of saying, “I have to wake up early.”, I will say, “I get to wake up early.”

I will set my alarm on my dresser so that I need to get up to turn it off. As soon as I’m done turning it off I will immediately hop in the shower before I even have time to think about going back to bed. I will make this my habit.

I will stick to the same 5:30am wake time every morning to condition myself to stick to this schedule.

When I’m feeling groggy and unmotivated to get up I will remind myself of how great my day goes when I do get up early. I will focus on how much I accomplish and how peacefully my day flows when I make time for myself in the morning.

New Habit Loop

  1. Cue: your alarm goes off at 5:30am
  2. Routine: you get out of bed, turn off the alarm, and hop in the shower
  3. Reward: you have a more happy, peaceful, fulfilled, focused, and productive day than if you would have hit snooze

Tips for Success

  • Before you begin to make any change, fully and nonjudgmentally accept where you are right now. This is deeply liberating and allows you the freedom to move forward.
  • Resist the urge to begin with the most daunting habit; instead, start with the habit that is going to be the easiest for you to change.
  • Be stubborn in your pursuit of transforming your habits and be the type of person who sticks to your new habit. You can do it!

Interested in learning more? Stay tuned for my next blog post about effective ways to make life-lasting positive changes.

If you’re ready to make some healthy lifestyle changes now but aren’t sure where to begin set up a 15-minute phone strategy session with me so I can start helping you make immediate changes! 

Dr Lara Salyer Blog Author Photo

Dr. Lara Salyer

I am a Functional Medicine Physician, Speaker, Author and Mentor located in Monroe, WI.