How to Build Healthy Habits

The Science of Healthy Habits

Humans are creatures of habit, following similar rhythms each day. But changing our rhythms towards health can be difficult! Here are strategies, backed by research, for forming new healthy habits: 

Stack Your Habits

Look for patterns in your day and connect new habits with existing ones. For example, while you brush your teeth, you might stand on one foot to practice your balance. Or every day when you get back to your residence after class, start with a healthy snack and mindful moment before you succumb to your work or couch. 

Start Small 

Big behavior changes require high motivation that is difficult to sustain. Instead, consider tiny changes to make the new habit as easy as possible. 

Do it Every Day

Habits take a long time to create but they form faster when we do them more often. You’re more likely to stick with a habit if you do a small version of it every day rather than big, deep versions of it a few times a week.

Make it Easy

Set yourself up for success by removing friction to your success, or adding friction to the habits you want to avoid. Sleep in your workout clothes to make it easier to wake up and move. Choose a mini-habit that requires minimal equipment. Make the healthy choice the easy choice! 

Make it Fun

Try adding habits with fun built in – listen to a good audiobook or podcast while doing your new habit. Do your new activity with someone you adore. Create reward systems that will motivate you. 

For more habit-changing advice, check out the Learning Center’s website.

Finding Inner Peace at College

The middle of the semester sometimes feels as if a thousand tasks are coming at you from every direction – whether it’s assignments, clubs/organizations, a job, or imposter syndrome. Don’t forget to make time for the activities that keep you mentally balanced. 


Person sits cross legged on a rock in a lake at dusk

Be calm in the storm 

Inner peace means a state of physical and spiritual calm despite stressors. Finding inner peace is a process – it won’t happen overnight – but working towards it will help you focus and have a clear mind. 

6 Strategies to Maintain a Peaceful Mind 

  1. Spend Time in Nature. Take a short, mindful walk where you notice your senses – the breeze on your face, the ground beneath your feet, the warmth of the sun. Remind yourself to relax, take your time, and notice sensations – especially in moments when you feel stressed.
  2. Meditate.  You can try yoga or listen to a guided meditation on a podcast. Meditation has many proven benefits and can help you find your path to peace and happiness. 
  3. Give yourself time to worry.  Spoiler alert: You won’t be able to get rid of all your worries for good. In fact, the more you tell yourself not to stress, the more you probably will. What can help is to schedule a “worry time” during your day. Choose a small window of time to sit quietly. Let yourself go over all the things that have you concerned, as well as some ways you might solve them. You may find that this allows you to worry less — and ultimately feel more peaceful throughout the rest of the day.
  4. Declutter. Do you notice how your environment can be a reflection of your inner world? Create an environment around you that supports your goals. Organizing your space, tasks, and thoughts, can help your mind be more peaceful.
  5. Be accountable and take responsibility. Even when it’s difficult, admitting your mistakes helps you find peace and happiness. Criticisms are an opportunity to improve yourself, and accepting that you’re imperfect and make mistakes makes you more resilient.  
  6. Practice acceptance and contentment. Accept that you are imperfect and figure out strategies to deal with problems. Release yourself from self-criticism and comparison. Remember that your journey at UNC-CH is your own unique experience. Be kind to yourself.

Make YOU a priority

Self-care can support a healthy college experience – increasing productivity by stepping away from your to-do list. Sounds like magic, right? 

What are the different types of self-care?

  • Emotional Self-Care means evaluating your emotional well-being. Giving yourself space for self-talk, saying “no” to things that would disrupt your energy flow or cause stress, and going on friend dates are all ways to contribute to your emotional self-care. 
  • Physical Self-Care. Prioritizing sleep, adopting a routine that includes physical activity, and eating a diversity of yummy, nutrient-filled foods are all ways to take care of yourself physically.
  • Spiritual Self-Care can look different for everyone! Spending time in a quiet place, meditating, journaling and incorporating overall peaceful activities into your day can all help with spiritual well-being. 

What does your self-care look like?

What does giving yourself attention and space – just like you do for assignments and others – look like? Use this well-being day to set some daily or monthly wellness goals to help make sure you meet your own needs. Remember that you came to UNC with a host of identities and values outside of school. Ensure you’re supporting your whole self through this journey. 

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • What self-care successes are you proud of so far this semester?
  • What would you like to do more often?
  • What do you need right now?