15 good habits for physical and mental health that you can start building today

updated on 15 October 2021

When it comes to building healthy habits, there's a few key steps to take in order to be successful:

a) Pick the right habits to work on

b) Start with small, manageable goals

c) Track your habits to measure your progress change your behavior accordingly 

Let's start with the first one: pick the right habits to work on. To help you with this, I've created this list of 15 good habits for physical and mental health based on data generated by people tracking their habits with Harold. In 2021 Harold helped users track over 350 habits. I looked at the most popular ones and ones that led to the most drastic improvements to help you discover good habits you can start building today.

Bonus at the end: I've included some honorable mention ones based on their uniqueness and creativity. 

Let's get to it!

Here's 15 good habits for physical and mental health:

1. Do 1 pushup a day 

You can play around with the number here (or the exercise), but the idea is to start small. Once you do 1, and you're already on the ground in the push-up position, you're likely to do more. The point is, it's easier to start when you're planning on only doing one. Doing pushups can also snowball into doing more exercises. You're already doing it, might as well do some sit-ups too! This is a great one for people just starting to get back into exercising. Here are some examples of how people tracked this habit with Harold:

  • Did you do 1 push up today?
  • Did you do 1+ push-ups?
  • Did you do 5 pushups today?
  • How many pushups did you do?
  • Did you touch your pull-up bar?
  • Did you 10 squats today?

2. Physical activity for at least 30 minutes

This is a good one if you're already pretty active and want to make sure your consistently getting the recommend amount of exercise. Questions look like:

  • Did you do physical activity for at least 30 minutes?
  • Did you move your body for 30 minutes today? 
  • Did you go to a workout class?

3. Drink at least two glasses of water

Same idea with the pushups one. Start with something small and doable and once you do it, you're likely to just continue and do more. Another big reason starting small is beneficial: because it's so achievable, you're less likely to give up. The biggest thing with habit building is consistency. So it's better to drink two cups of water for 5 days of the week than to shoot for 8, not make it, and then give up. The questions Harold users are asking look like:

  • Did you drink at least two glasses of water today?
  • How many glasses of water did you have today?
  • Did you drink a gallon of water today?

4. One vegetable a day 

Are you catching on to a theme here? Start small, and then make your habits more challenging once you get them down. Eating healthy is something we all know is good for our physical health, but there are so many different approaches. Here are some of the ways Harold users are doing it:

  • Did you eat a vegetable today?
  • Did you have a salad for lunch?
  • Did you avoid sweets/candy today?
  • Did you hit your macros today? 
  • How many healthy meals did you have today?

6. Get outside

Ah, fresh air! This is one of my favorite ones. It's easy and it's such a mood booster. This is one of those small, doable habits that will compound into so many other things. There's research that shows that getting at least 5-10 minutes of sunlight within the first 30 minutes of waking up can increase your cognitive functioning and productivity. Pretty cool right! Here are some ways to track this habit with Harold:

  • "Have you walked around the block?
  • Did you get out for a walk?
  • Did you take [insert dog's name] walking?
  • Did you get sunlight this morning?

7. Limit alcohol

This is a big one. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy my glass of wine, cocktail or hard kombucha, but if we want to increase our physical health, it's best to limit our alcohol intake as best we can. It's not good for you, we all know that, but it also affects your sleep, which can affect your ability to get your other healthy habits done the next day. Tracking can be a great way to be more mindful about it: 

  • How many drinks did you have today?
  • Did you have any alcohol today?

8. Get in bed by [reasonable hour]

Everybody's internal clock is different, so the exact time is up to you. But getting good sleep is a huge part of physical health and it also cascades and affects the rest of your day. If you get a good night's rest, you are more likely to complete your other habits as well. Here is how some Harold users are tracking this:

  • Did you go to bed before 10pm?
  • Did you get to sleep on time last night?
  • What time did you start reading and winding down?
  • Did you wake up before 8am?

9. Stretch for 5 minutes 

Stretching is so good for you! And it feels good, so why not? If it feels boring to you, throw in a podcast for find a stretching video on Youtube to guide you. Even 5 minutes will move you in the right direction. Here's some ideas for how to track this:

  • Did you stretch for 5 minutes?
  • Did you sit on the floor and listen to a podcast?
  • Did you do your 10-15 minutes of stretches today?
  • Did you stretch today?
  • Did you do yoga before work today?

10. Take your supplements/medications or other treatments

I don't take any supplements and therefore am not advising you take them or not. The point here is, if you're directed by a doctor or medical professional to take a supplement or medication it's important that you take them consistently! We have many people using Harold to track their medications. Here are some examples:

  • Did you take your medicine today?
  • Did you take your supplements today?
  • Did you do your treatment?
  • Did you do your physical therapy?

11. Write down one thing you're grateful for

Gratitude might be one of the simplest and most beneficial habits on this list, and it's been proven by science! This study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that adopting a gratitude journaling practice for 14 days "increased positive affect, subjective happiness and life satisfaction, and reduced negative affect and depression symptoms". Now that's a good habit! Here's how Harold users are tracking their gratitude practice. You can see it looks a little different for everyone!

  • Did you say thank you for the gift of another day?
  • Did you do your gratitude?
  • Did you send love to a friend?
  • Did you pray today?

12. Read 1 page 

A lot of us read emails, articles, and social media posts online all day. And although that might be useful and fun, we all know it's not as beneficial as sitting down and reading a real book. Starting with just 1 page a day is a great strategy. Unless you're reading the dictionary, you know you'll want to read more. Some suggestions if you want to track it:

  • Did you read your book today?
  • Did you read 1 page of something today?
  • How long did you read today?
  • Did you read for 5 minutes this morning?

13. Sit still and take 5 deep breaths

This can also be called "meditating for beginners". If you're more experienced with meditating, maybe shoot for a habit of at least 5 minutes a day. You can always find 5 minutes, right? And some days you'll do more. 

  • Did you sit still and take 5 breaths today?
  • Did you meditate today?
  • Did you meditate for at least 5 minutes today?

14. Journal 

Journaling is such a great habit to adopt, but many people don't know how to journal or what they should be journaling about. There is a lot of different styles to choose from. You could do daily entries about what you're thinking about, doodle, write out things you're thankful for, or write out a to-do list. If you're just getting started, start by getting a journal, opening up a page, and seeing what comes out! Here's how you could track it:

  • Did you journal today?
  • Have you journaled for 10 minutes today?
  • Did you read tarot today?
  • Have you been reflecting?

15. Limit screentime 

I could write a full article about this. This is one that that has lots of ripple effects. If you reduce your screentime, you are likely to see improvements in sleep, mood, self-control and cognitive abilities. One study found that more than 1h/day was correlated with "lower psychological well-being, including less curiosity, lower self-control, more distractibility, more difficulty making friends, less emotional stability, being more difficult to care for, and inability to finish tasks". That's a lot of adverse effects. If you're looking to change one good habit that will improve your life drastically, this one may be the one to tackle. Here's ways to track and build a habit of limiting screentime:

  • Did you turn off your phone an hour before bed?
  • Did you choose poetry before screens today?
  • Did you journal before opening your computer today?
  • What was your screen time today?
  • How many hours were you on your phone today? 

Honorable Mentions:

These didn't fit into any category, but they were too good not to list!

  • Did you prep for Thot Girl Summer today?
  • Did you play with the kids today?
  • Have you found your small win today?
  • Did you make your relationship a bit better today?
  • Billy Billy on the wall, did you tweet to them all?
  • Did you meet somebody new today?

What good habits will you build?

In the end, it's not rocket science to know what habits are good for us. The hard part is actually doing them. That's why I built Harold. He helped me build and stick with habits that set my life on a new course.

If you've ever struggled with sticking with habits, I'd love for you to give Harold a try. The results will surprise you.

Start your 7-day free trial here 👉  heyitsharold.com

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