Here's How to Find the One Thing That Will Improve Your Health and Wealth

Forming new habits are no fun. But, what if there was a way to knock multiple good habits out with one small change to your lifestyle?

That’s the idea behind a keystone habit. Read on to learn exactly what a keystone habit is and how this singular habit can help you achieve optimal health and wealth in the new year.

What is a Keystone Habit?

A keystone habit is one single habit that has multiple positive cascading effects. Rather than shooting for multiple different habits, you can instead choose one keystone habit that will have a dozen positive effects. Here are a 4 examples to get you started:

1. Follow a To-Do List Every Day

We all have things we want to get done every day. But who the heck can remember them all when you can barely keep track of where your car keys are?

When I started following a to-do list, I noticed a ripple effect happening in my life. I became healthier because I remembered to take my dietary supplements every day. I had more money because I was prompted to check on my finances daily, and I earned more money because I remembered to follow up with clients. One small to-do list did all that, and more!

2. Exercise

Exercising has a ton of positive benefits. You can decrease your medical bills by staying healthier, and spend less on groceries since you’ll probably be more conscious of how much you eat (who wants to work off all those extra calories, anyway?) Exercise can  also make you happier because it releases feel-good, pain-relieving chemicals in your brain called endorphins. Plus, despite spending more energy on exercise, you’ll ultimately feel more well-rested because your sleep will improve.

3. Replace Soda With Water

Today Americans are drinking 25% less soda pop than 20 years ago. Still, most people are probably drinking more than they should.

Replacing soda with water not only saves you money in medical and dental bills, but you’ll also save money by not buying soda in the first place! For me, drinking water is easier anyway. I just fill my water bottle right from the tap whenever I get thirsty. No more lugging heavy two-liter soda bottles up the stairs to my second-floor apartment.

4. Cook at Home

This keystone habit might sound like a bit of a drag at first, especially if you’re the type of person who lives by the motto, “I don’t live to cook. I cook to live.” But stick with me.

Cooking at home saves a ton of money over buying take out food each night. It also saves time. Have you ever calculated how many minutes it actually takes you to go out, get food, and bring it home for everyone else to eat? Plus, you’ll eat healthier and save on medical bills over time (are you seeing a trend here?). It can even be fun to cook with family. Even I—a former hardcore “I hate cooking” devotee—can admit that cooking is sometimes enjoyable.

How to Find Your Keystone Habit

I’ve outlined some great keystone habits above, but the truth is that you need to find the best habit for you and your individual situation. To get started, make a list of all the good habits you’d like to start. Maybe it’s meditating, fasting, reading, quitting smoking, getting more sleep, or any number of other things.

Next, go through each good habit on your list and count out the potential secondary benefits of each habit. For example, getting more sleep can:

  • Make you less crabby
  • Improve relationships
  • Make you more productive during the day
  • Reduce medical bills from stress
  • Increase your happiness

Finally, choose the keystone habit that meets the following criteria: a) you think you can keep it up long-term (habit stacking can help you with this), and b) has the most beneficial secondary habits.

By following these two criteria in choosing your own keystone habit, you can make sure that it’s something you’ll stick to. After all, 2018 will come with plenty of challenges. It’s time to plan your game now so you can come out ahead in the new year!

Next up
Lindsay VanSomeren

Lindsay VanSomeren is a personal finance writer living in Fort Collins, CO with a houseful of pets including two cats, a dog, and a husband. She has been a professional dogsled racer, a wildlife researcher, and a participant in the National Spelling Bee. She shows other recent college grads how to manage their money through her own experiences at Notorious D.E.B.T.