Make Cues Work for You


The July Healthy Habit Hack: Make cues work for you

Welcome to the Healthy Habit Hacks blog series! We’re here to help turn your healthy intentions into habits. So far, we’ve shared these monthly hacks:

  1. Start where you are
  2. Track your actions
  3. Break goals into small steps
  4. Find your joy!
  5. Explore your why
  6. Reward yourself

This month we’re discussing how to find cues and reminders that may help you start and stick with healthy habits or break bad ones. Finding easy ways to add healthy actions into your daily routine sets you up for success. We’ll help you think about how to set up your surroundings, add cues, and remove triggers to support your health goals.

What is a cue?

Simply put, a cue is a signal for you to do something. It’s an internal or external event or object that can remind (or signal) you to act. There are natural things that cue us like the time of day, our surroundings, and emotions. For example, when it starts to get dark in the evening, our natural train of thoughts leads us to start making dinner. We want to make sure they work for us, not against us. Understanding these will make it easy to add a healthy habit into your daily routine.

Starting new habits?

Here are some ways you can manipulate the cues that are already part of your typical day to work for you.

First, think about the time of day and your usual routine. You may find that morning signals an ideal time to do stretching exercises or that walking with your family after dinner is the best time to make exercise a habit. Or maybe it’s every day during lunch that you can sneak in 20 to 30 minutes of brisk walking or even a 45-minute workout at the gym. When the clock strikes 12:00, you know it’s time to lace up your sneakers.

Next, think about your surroundings, how can you set up your environment to provide visual and other supportive cues to keep you on track? Examples here can include sticky notes with encouragement in your line of sight to help you think more positively. Stock your fridge and cupboards with only healthy, nutrient-dense, lower calorie, higher fiber foods when aiming to lose weight.

Read about anchoring your day and learn more about how to make time and cues work for you in building healthy habits.

Breaking bad habits?

When breaking a bad habit, you may need to remove or replace a cue. For instance, replace the candy bowl on your desk with a bowl of fresh fruit when breaking the junk food or sugar habit. Instead of smoking a cigarette as soon as you’re done with your workday, meditate or stretch for 10 minutes – or phone a friend.

Emotions often cue our bad habits like when we’re stressed, frustrated or fidgety, many of us reach for chocolate, a cigarette, or an alcoholic drink in excess. Recognizing these emotional cues or triggers is the first step. Having a plan in place to counteract them is the second. When a negative emotion surfaces, write a to-do list to feel busy in a productive way, or stop and meditate to center yourself. Take out your aggression in a healthy way by working out. Take in nature or use your creative side and listen to music, draw, or write in a journal. Maybe even use this time as a cue to catch up with a friend.

You can also take an active part in Vitality. The program is designed to cue healthy behaviors – try setting a goal or setting up a device to track your exercise. When you participate in these features you’ll receive notifications and news that is encouraging and supportive of behavior change and healthy habits. Goals include tips and resources from exercise to eating healthy, stopping smoking, and sleeping well to caring for your mental health.

Remember the key is to prepare and set up cues such that they work for you, instead of against you.

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