Home » Happiness Tip: Establish a Tiny Habit


Happiness Tip: Establish a Tiny Habit

Do you have resolutions you’d like to make this week?

Maybe you’d like to read or workout more, or remember to call your mom on Mondays. My best advice is to start by picking just one ridiculously easy habit to work on. Start with what Stanford habit researcher BJ Fogg calls a “tiny habit.” The reason that I want you to think small is that deliberate habit formation is a skill. Starting with a tiny habit is like learning to dog paddle before you learn the breast stroke.

Here are some of Fogg’s suggestions for tiny habits:

“After I pour my morning coffee, I will text my mom.”

“After I start the dishwasher, I will read one sentence from a book.”

“After I walk in my front door from work, I will get out my workout clothes.”

I know, I know: tiny habits seem so tiny. By necessity, they need to be ridiculously easy, and this makes them feel trivial and unimportant. But tiny habits are about skill building, and about inching your way towards the bigger resolutions you made in the year.

Take Action: Pick something small, like taking a daily vitamin, or flossing just one tooth (that’s BJ Fogg’s suggested starter habit) — anything that takes less than 30 seconds, requires little physical effort, little money, and doesn’t require that you go against a social norm (like flossing in the public bathroom). It should take little time, but not require that you time yourself (e.g., floss my teeth for 30 seconds), because timing yourself is a hassle. This tiny habit needs to be something that you do at least once a day — no exceptions.

Join the Discussion: What’s your tiny habit going to be? List it here and I will help you format it correctly.


  1. grasshopper says:

    Once my baby is asleep at night I’ll give my partner a hug and thank him for one thing he’s done that day…then I’ll do one thing to make sure I plan to see my friends more often…then I’ll do one thing towards listing an item in my online shop…then I’ll floss one tooth….then I’ll go to bed earlier…!!

    • Christine Carter says:

      After my baby falls asleep, I will hug my partner and thank him.
      (That’s enough! If you want to practice other tiny habits, link them to existing triggers, not new behaviors.)

    • Christine Carter says:

      After I get out of bed in the morning, I will do one stretch that feels good. (Better: decide which specific, easy feel-good stretch you will do.)

  2. Amy McGhee says:

    Turn on the coffee machine, take a vitamin – just the first one I reach, not all, or not decide which ones today!

  3. LonePony says:

    I have chronic issues I would like to overcome. I can’t even think of one small thing I have tried to change that worked with regards to these issues 🙁

    • Christine Carter says:

      One step…Just take one step. What is one big thing you’d like to change? What is one thing you already do habitually? I’ll help you.

      • LonePony says:

        I have had bulimia for 20 years despite following food plans, seeing therapists, dietitians, meditating,being in a treatment centre, reading books, doing yoga.etc.. I would like to eat normal meals without binging and throwing up.

          • Christine Carter says:

            My suggestion for a tiny habit: As soon as I arrive at work, I will take 3 deep breaths, and write down one thing that I feel grateful for.

          • Christine Carter says:

            Here is my rationale: You aren’t trying to solve a problem right now, you are PRACTICING getting into a good habit, and at the same time, taking 30 seconds for self-nurturance and care. I love the app “Gratitude!” for quickly writing down something that I feel grateful for. This is the first step in a journey.

          • Christine Carter says:

            You are brave, and helping other people while you help yourself. Take a moment to speak kindly to yourself, like you would a friend, and give yourself a little pat on the back for your courage.

  4. Pamela says:

    I would love some help figuring out a tiny habit to help me unplug from my phone. It’s the first thing I reach for in the morning, when I’m stopped at red lights, when I get home from work–my brain has become used to checking my email, text messages, facebook, playing plants vs. zombies constantly. It’s hard because I use my phone for so many things throughout the day (except of course as a phone!), so it’s constant presence makes it hard to forget it’s there at the times that I’m not really using it. Any ideas?

    • Christine Carter says:

      This is a huge issue for a lot of people — I’m going to write my next Happiness Tip about this, so keep an eye out for that. As for a tiny habit, how about this: “After I turn my alarm off in the morning, I will turn my phone over without looking at email or messages, and get out of bed.” Start with just that (leave it there for 5 minutes or so) and work up to not looking at your phone for the first hour that you are awake. More about that in a January Happiness Tip!

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