Habits are one of those things that most people love and hate at the same time. It might feel like an uphill battle to develop a good habits list that you’ll actually follow. In the short term, you might have days where you just don't feel like making the effort!
But in the long term, implementing daily habits to improve life can totally transform the way you feel about yourself. As long as you can do the difficult part of the habit-setting process, you’ll be reaping the benefits for years to come!
So let’s see how to come up with a good habits list that will change your life in great ways, with 25 ideas to inspire you!
Why habits matter
You can think of habits as your default life activities. They’re the things you do every day, week, or month, maybe without even thinking about them. Once you’ve formed a habit, it just becomes a normal part of your life.
Of course, this can be a good or bad thing. So if you’re in the habit of smoking a pack a day, you probably wish that wasn’t one of your current defaults. But if you have a list of good habits—let’s say, going for a run every day—you might get to the point where you pull on your sneakers like it’s second nature.
Habits affect your long-term quality of life
Habits matter because you’re essentially training yourself to behave in ways that either hurt or help you. And it’s important to note that you can set habits unintentionally.
For instance, most of us don’t actively decide “I’m going to drink a cup of coffee every morning.” We just do it! Habits efficiently remove most of the thinking and planning parts of a process, so all you have to do is the action itself.
If you can take the power of habits into your own hands and start setting them intentionally, it’s like finding a cheat code to life. The first step? Deciding what habits you want to program into your own “default settings” as a person!
How to develop a list of good habits
Coming up with a good habits list means looking at the things you want to improve across many different dimensions of life.
Whether you want to improve your physical health, mental well-being, financial situation, career prospects, life skills, social connections, or anything else, a list of good habits can help you make progress in all of these areas.
To make your own list, start by writing down the areas of your life where you'd like to make improvements. Then write down habits that would help you with whatever those improvements are. (You can use this list as an example.)
Let’s look at daily habits to improve life in all the important categories!
Pretty much every other aspect of life revolves around our health.
For example, if your body isn’t feeling good, that’s going to impact your energy levels, motivation, activities you’re physically able to do, etc. Fitness will get its own category of habits, so let’s start with a good habits list for your overall health!
1. Get quality sleep
Have you heard the term sleep hygiene? Just like you probably have a hygiene routine, there are steps you should take to ensure higher-quality sleep.
Some of the CDC’s suggestions include observing a set bedtime, avoiding too much caffeine and alcohol, and turning off the tech before you sleep.
2. Eat the rainbow
Enjoy as many different colors of fruits and vegetables as you can throughout the day. The various colors are associated with different types and amounts of vitamins, antioxidants, and phytonutrients to help you feel your best.
This is also a great habit to do with kids since it’s fun to keep track of all the colors throughout the day.
3. Cook more homemade meals
When life gets hectic, it’s easy to start reaching for microwave meals or ordering takeout. In exchange, your wallet gets emptier while your sodium/oil/sugar/you-name-it consumption rises.
Save money and get healthier with the habit of cooking nutritious meals. Check out these tips for meal planning on a budget!
4. Spend time outdoors
Simply being outside in nature offers a slew of health benefits.
For example, science points to higher life expectancy, less stress and depression, better sleep, and even a decreased risk of cancer and heart disease.
So find your favorite green spaces nearby and make a habit of visiting them often.
Although it’s a subset of health, fitness is important enough to get its own good habits list. Moving your body every day is one of the very best things to do for your overall well-being.
In addition, by adopting these daily habits to improve life, you’ll boost your immune system, sharpen your mental functioning, strengthen your muscles and bones, and the list goes on!
1. Aim for a daily steps goal
If you have a fitness tracker or a smartphone, you have the ability to track how many steps you take in a day!
It can be satisfying to aim for a nice round number like 5,000 or 10,000 steps a day. Step tracking is a great way to keep yourself accountable to fit in a daily walk (even if it’s just parking further away).
Bonus: see if your workplace or health insurance offers step-tracking rewards. My insurance has a program offering $20/month for walking 10k steps a day!
2. Find a physical activity you love
Exercise is a much easier habit to keep up when it doesn't even feel like exercise! For instance, take up an active hobby like hiking, swimming, bicycling, dancing, running, etc.
A group fitness class could be a fun option too, combining socialization and music with the workout.
3. Practice regular stretching/yoga
No matter what kind of fitness activities you like to engage in, it's important to combine them with the habit of stretching.
Pilates, yoga, tai chi, and other flexibility-centered exercises are great options to keep your joints and muscles limber.
Do you ever find yourself getting stuck in a cycle of mental negativity or stress? Practicing the right mindset habits can turn your brain into a more peaceful, positive place to be.
1. Meditate or try mindfulness
Meditation doesn't always mean sitting cross-legged looking picture-perfect on a fancy mat.
Instead, it can just mean quieting your mind on a nature walk and noticing the sights and sounds around you. Or practicing mindfulness over your morning tea or coffee.
Meditation is all about taking a quiet moment to yourself and clearing your mind of noise and stress. Studies show that mindfulness meditation can be a good antidote to depression, anxiety, and even chronic pain.
2. Look for silver linings
Life tends to throw a lot of curveballs, and it's not difficult to let them overwhelm us. That's why instead of thinking about the negative aspects of a situation, it's valuable to search for the positives.
So make a habit of reflecting at the end of each day and thinking about what value you can glean from the things you've been through.
3. Start journaling
Sometimes the best way to sort out your thoughts and feelings is with a pen. Journaling is kind of a forgotten art in the age of the internet, but it deserves to be resurrected.
A journal is a great tool for reflection and also creates a record of your ideas and memories throughout the years.
4. Make a gratitude list
Thinking about what you're grateful for: it's not just for Thanksgiving anymore! This is a wonderful daily habit to help you focus on the positives.
So think of one thing you're grateful for every day, no matter how small, and write it down. Look back at past entries whenever you need a pick-me-up.
By implementing a list of good habits for financial wellness, you'll keep your goals on track with ease. Begone, money stress!
1. Track your finances
Before you can do any real financial planning, you have to know where you stand. The easiest way is to use some kind of tracking app/program that displays your income, spending, investments, etc.
It only takes five minutes to check in daily! Learn more about tracking and managing your money here.
2. Sleep on big purchases
Patience is the enemy of impulse purchases. Get into the habit of giving yourself time to contemplate before buying expensive items.
Maybe you and your partner can make an agreement to get each other’s opinion for purchases over a certain amount.
Either way, take a day or two to ask yourself the important questions first.
“Is this a need or a want right now? How often will I actually use this? Could I find it cheaper used?”
Make a pros and cons list before you decide!
3. Avoid unnecessary debt
Maybe you’ve already experienced what it’s like to dig yourself out of a debt hole. The interest keeps adding up, making the debt more and more insurmountable.
When it comes to debt, prevention is the best cure. So get into the habit of paying off credit cards in full each month (or using debit if credit is too tempting).
Consider buying a used car instead of taking out a new vehicle loan. Some debt is “good debt,” e.g. mortgages and student loans, so just evaluate each situation wisely.
4. Save and invest every month
Every time a paycheck comes in, get into the habit of “paying yourself first” by setting aside a percentage for savings and investments.
If you’re on a debt payoff journey, you can modify this habit to tackle that first if you want. Making a regular effort to save and grow your money is one of the greatest things to do for your future.
Whether you’re just starting your career, working your way up the corporate ladder, or running a business, this good habits list will help you thrive.
1. Take initiative on projects
If you’re always waiting for other people to tell you what to do, it could limit your career growth and confidence. So always be looking around and thinking about ways you could pitch in.
Brainstorming ideas for how your team could do something more efficiently is one of the good work habits you should adopt. When you see work that needs to be done, volunteer. These habits make you invaluable as an employee or a boss!
2. Pursue new skills and knowledge
Learning doesn’t stop after school; you can make it a habit for life! In this context: what skills or know-how do you need to reach the next level in your career?
Talk to people in your industry about what they wish they’d learned sooner. If you have a boss, ask what you should prioritize to qualify for a promotion. Find ways to regularly gain new job skills or learn things about your industry.
3. Invite constructive feedback
It can feel vulnerable to invite judgment from others, but feedback doesn’t have to be scary. Maybe you’re a company owner and want to know what you can do to create a better work environment.
Maybe you’re an employee who wants to make sure your performance is above par. The habit of remaining open to (and gracious about) constructive criticism will serve you well.
4. Be solution-oriented
It’s easy to complain about problems, but it’s more productive to think of solutions. Think about the kind of reputation you’d rather have at work: someone who’s always negative, or someone who remains calm and works hard to fix problems. The latter is the kind of employee, coworker, or boss everyone loves!
Social & romantic habits
Friendships, partnerships, and family relationships are some of the most important things in life. But sometimes, it’s also easy to neglect them!
These daily habits to improve life revolve around appreciating the people who make your life beautiful.
1. Do random acts of kindness
You may have heard of this idea before! Random acts of kindness can be things you do for strangers or loved ones. Make a habit of looking for ways to brighten someone’s day.
Here are some nice things you can do that don’t even cost money. Give a genuine compliment, share a meal, run an errand for a neighbor, etc. Increase the amount of feel-good vibes in the world!
2. Join a group for your interests
Want to expand your social circle and enjoy your favorite hobbies at the same time? Look for local groups that gather for activities you enjoy.
It could be a hiking group, a book club, a board game or trivia group, foodies who like to visit new restaurants… No matter what, it definitely enhances your life to make new connections with people who share your passions.
3. Practice active listening
If there’s one social habit that can transform any kind of relationship, this is it! Active listening means genuinely paying attention to people when they’re speaking. Try to be present and engage in the conversation.
Aim to truly understand what they’re saying, instead of just half-listening while waiting for your turn to talk. This habit makes the other person feel heard and appreciated, strengthening your connection.
Personal development habits
Lastly, this good habits list is all about ideas to enrich your life in a way that’s all for you!
1. Make time for your hobbies
Is there anything that you used to love doing, but slowly fell out of the habit? Maybe it was a creative hobby, like creating art, playing an instrument, or writing fiction. Or a hobby that got you working with your hands, like woodworking or gardening.
Do your best to carve out time in your schedule to reawaken your love for the things that fulfill you.
2. Read a chapter a day
Do you have a late-night phone-scrolling habit that you’d like to turn into something healthier? Make a list of books you’d like to read and work on the habit of reading one chapter every night before bed. This also connects to the earlier “sleep hygiene” habit by encouraging you to put those blue screens away sooner.
With a good book, you can learn about a topic that fascinates you or escape into a fictional world—however you like to read!
3. Take a class
These days, continuing education is more accessible than ever. If you like in-person learning, you can check out your local community college for adult classes or see if your library hosts workshops.
Online learning is another amazing option for learning a new skill or filling your mind with new knowledge. Take free university classes on a platform like Coursera. And don’t forget to add free Clever Girl Finance courses to your list too!
Bonus: Quitting bad habits
When you’re on a journey to create a list of good habits in your life, you might want to start with a clean slate. Ending negative habits can be just as impactful as creating new routines—if not more!
Think through your habits honestly
Think about some things you habitually do that really aren’t improving your life. It could be a poor health habit, like smoking, eating junk food, or drinking too much.
Or perhaps an organizational or work issue, like procrastinating on important projects. Maybe you’re struggling with a financial habit like impulse spending.
Whatever the case, be as honest with yourself as possible.
Brainstorm positive replacements for habits
Then, start brainstorming how to turn that list of bad habits into positive daily habits that make your life better! Add the best ideas you come up with to your daily habits.
Time to craft your good habits list!
The secret to developing good habits is also the most annoying thing about it: consistency. A behavior isn’t a habit if you only do it once in a while. When starting a new habit, commit to 1-3 months of doing it daily (when possible).
It might take around 66 days for the habit to start feeling automatic, but you should at least notice your resistance lowering over time.
As long as you have the right mindset and the determination to keep going when the going gets hard, just about any habit is within your reach!