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50 Simple Habits for Living Well

Could these high-octane habits inspire your life?

Key points

  • Philosophers and psychologists have long studied factors that make life worth living.
  • A habit is a well-learned behavior that is often performed automatically.
  • Forming habits can lead to creating long-term behaviors that can change your life.
Source: Geralt/Pixabay

In this ever-changing, diverse world, there are perhaps as many ideas about what habits help us live well as there are people (Park & Peterson, 2009).

Throughout millennia, humans have pondered the question of how to live fully, how to live well. The philosopher Aristotle believed that life’s goal was eudaimonia, happiness or flourishing and attaining the character traits that foster a well-lived life. Sigmund Freud proposed that love and work are cornerstones for living well. During the past 25 years, positive psychologists have studied factors that make life worth living, exploring the importance of positive emotions, meaning, relationships, engagement, and building on strengths (Boniwell, 2012; Seligman, 2011; Fredrickson, 2009).

There are many recipes for positive habits and perhaps as many ideas about what habits help us live well. The word habit refers to a well-learned behavior performed in a relatively specific context with little or no conscious intent—automatically (Gardner & Rebar, 2019).

This list offers a few habits from my aspirational playbook—habits that I aspire to leverage in my own life. Take them or leave them—the choices are yours.

  1. When it comes right down to it, relationships and love matter more than anything (Fredrickson, 2013).
  2. Strive to be a stand-up person.
  3. Invite moments of quiet into the day (Kabat-Zinn, 2012).
  4. Let yourself be readily awed by nature’s majesty—the sunrise, the wind, a rainbow, babies, snow, the changing cycles of the moon, the lakes and oceans (Kaufman, 2020).
  5. Read.
  6. Aspire to distinguish facts from fiction, and then make your own decisions.
  7. Remember that it’s not about perfection; it’s about progress.
  8. Remind yourself that the process can be as important as the outcome.
  9. Continue to build your skills to rebound from life’s challenges.
  10. Understand that changes are part of living and that we have choices about how we respond to them (Bridges, 2009; Frankl, 1959).
  11. Smile and laugh.
  12. When you fall down, get back up.
  13. Learn to differentiate between what you want and what you need.
  14. Strive to tolerate and even appreciate life’s ambiguities—much of life is lived in the gray zone rather than either–or.
  15. When you make a mistake, apologize and make corrections where you can.
  16. Reduce screen time and use technology as a tool in ways that help you live and work with well-being.
  17. Know the difference between urgent and important—they are usually not the same.
  18. Approach life with a beginner’s mind—Learn something new every day.
  19. Pay attention to what you know deep inside yourself.
  20. Figure out what’s meaningful to you and engage with it.
  21. Remember to pay attention to life’s big picture—try not to get lost in the details.
  22. Don’t hold grudges; the grudge usually hurts you more than the other person.
  23. Remember to breathe.
  24. Eat wisely.
  25. Drink enough water.
  26. Move your body frequently—make time for exercise.
  27. Get enough sleep (Walker, 2017).
  28. Create to-do lists and check items off as you accomplish them.
  29. Be willing to look at things from different viewpoints.
  30. It’s usually a good idea to think before you speak.
  31. Learn to say no to things that don’t matter and to say yes to things that do.
  32. Don’t just hear—pay attention!
  33. Aspire toward good posture as feels right to you.
  34. Spend quality time with kids and older people.
  35. Gratitude is life-enhancing—pause each day to notice the good stuff (Emmons, 2010).
  36. Be kind to others; be kind to yourself—offer yourself the same compassion you’d offer a good friend or loved one (Salzberg, 2010).
  37. Set goals in multiple areas of your life and work toward them, one step at a time.
  38. Be portable and adaptable.
  39. Learn from other people’s mistakes—you don’t have to make all of them yourself.
  40. Pause to notice and be thankful for what you do have.
  41. Develop smart money habits.
  42. Let it be OK to begin where you are today.
  43. Volunteer, contribute, and help others.
  44. Know your personal strengths and engage them in positive ways (Niemiec, 2014).
  45. Practice patience and then practice it again.
  46. Find time for things that make you happy or help you feel fulfilled.
  47. Wrap your brain around the idea that there are many ways to be in the world and that each person matters as part of the oneness of the universe.
  48. Remember what Louis Pasteur is noted as saying: “Chance favors the prepared mind.”
  49. Help your neighbor.
  50. Cherish each moment—it’s all you have right now.

If you want to shift toward or away from a habit in your own life, it can be helpful to begin with raising your awareness:

  • What are the habits, spoken and unspoken, that you lead your life by?
  • What positive habits have you observed in other people that you’d like to blend into your own life?
  • What inspires you?
  • What habit(s) do you want to omit, include, or expand in your life?
  • What next step(s) do you choose to take action on?

This article is for informational purposes only. No content is a substitute for consulting with a qualified mental health or health care professional.


Bridges, W. (2009). Managing transitions: Making the most of change. Philadelphia, PA: DaCapo Press.

Boniwell, I. (2012, 3rd Printing). Positive psychology in a nutshell. New York, NY: Open University Press.

Emmons, R. (11/19/2010). Benefits of gratitude.

Fredrickson, B. L. (2009). Positivity: Top-notch research reveals the upward spiral that will change your life. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.

Fredrickson, B.L. (2013). Love 2.0: How our supreme emotion affects everything we feel, think, do, and become. New York, NY: Hudson Street Press.

Frankl, V. (1959). Man’s search for meaning. New York, NY: Washington Square Press.

Gardner B. & Rebar, A.L. (2019). Habit formation and behavior change.

Kabat-Zinn, J.( 2012). Mindfulness for beginners: reclaiming the present moment - and your life. Boulder, CO: Sounds True.

Kaufman, S.B. (2020). Transcend: The new science of self-actualization. New York, NY: TarcherPerigree

Niemiec, R.M. (2014). Mindfulness & character strengths: A practical guide to flourishing. Boston, MA: Hogrefe.

Park & Peterson (2009). Achieving and sustaining a good life. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 4(4).

Salzberg, S. (2010). The force of kindness: Change your life with love & compassion. Boulder, CO: Sounds True.

Seligman, M.E.P. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York, NY: Atria Paperback.

Walker, M. (2017). Why we sleep: Unlocking the power of sleep and dreams. New York: NY: Scribner.

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