Living a healthy life is one of the key things you can do to stay or become well. How you eat, move, relax, and connect to others—all of these play major roles in healing your body, mind, and spirit. The choices you make today matter. And today’s choices determine the choices available to you tomorrow.

How to Change

The problem lies not in knowing what you should be doing, but rather in making these changes habitual and meaningful to you. Link the behavior to the meaning and joy in your life. This will prepare you emotionally and mentally to sustain the behavior in the long run.

Before you consider which behaviors are right for you to change now, read the following list on how change happens. These are ten effective ways to make any healthy behavior change stick:

1. Develop a plan. Pick one or two small changes that feel manageable and that give you pleasure: two yoga postures, switching from white to whole grain bread, starting tango lessons, going on a picnic, or joining a book club or a volunteer group.

2. Pick something you can do. Choose a small, realistic, attainable change. Do that first. Don’t pick something you just think you should do. If needed, break it into small parts and do part of it first.

3. Tell somebody. Have them ask you about it monthly.

4. Find a group. Look for or create social situations that encourage healing behaviors: a walking club, a healthy cooking class, a family or friend to monitor you.

5. Plan for a slip. Times when you are not doing the behavior or even intentional slips are important for long-term change. Build in occasional times when you do not do the new behavior.

6. Know the real reason for making the change. The most effective reasons for sustained behavior change are intrinsic (I want to feel better) rather than extrinsic (I want to be liked).

7. It may be hard. Prepare to be uncomfortable for a while. Change is not easy. Your plan should include how to deal with that.

8. Be ready. Sometimes the time is not right to make a change. Maybe today is not the day to start. If so, admit that and take more time to prepare.

9. Start. Are you a chronic procrastinator (about 20% of people are) or just procrastinating on this one behavior? If chronic, seek help to deal with that first.

10. Ask your doctor. Discuss lifestyle and prevention behaviors with your medical team and ask about any helpful resources your health care services offer—such as behaviorists, health coaches, nutritionists, fitness trainers, or rehabilitation specialists.

Reprinted with permission from How Healing Works by Wayne Jonas, MD, copyright ©2018. Published by Lorena Jones, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC