Healthy Habits or Coping Habits, Pick One

Healthy habits make you feel alive, coping habits keep you alive. @DanielTStephens

Healthy habits make you feel alive; coping habits keep you alive. Do you want to merely survive? Or thrive? Do you have a strong capacity for stress? Or do you just cope?

Healthy habits make you feel alive, coping habits keep you alive. @DanielTStephens

I’ll admit, I set that up as a false dilemma. In reality, you need both. But I think that people tend to focus on one, and often the wrong one.

Healthy Habits

Healthy habits are self-reinforcing over the long term. They are hard to get started, but once you stop a healthy habit, you will quickly have a sense of needing to get back on the wagon. Stopping a well establish healthy habit will feel like cutting off a limb.

Healthy habits prevent many problems. If you have well-established habits of sleep, diet, and exercise, chances are you are reasonably healthy. If you don’t have those habits, you are more likely to experience major health problems than someone who does have those habits. If you have well-established habits of Marriage Maintenance, chances are you have a happy marriage. If you don’t…

Healthy habits increase total productivity. This is paradoxical. Just like when you add oil to your car, it runs better; so when you add healthy habits to your life, the “machine” runs better. Sleep, diet, exercise, and spiritual disciplines help you to feel better, and strong interpersonal habits reduce stress. A relatively healthy and stress-free person will always be more productive than a sick, stressed person.

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Healthy habits create space for other things. They create freedom. At first, it feels as if all you’re doing is adding new responsibilities and obligations, but as you become more productive because you are feeling better and functioning better, things feel simpler.

Healthy habits are synergistic. They snowball. They are mutually reinforcing.

Sounds great, doesn’t it. The problem is, we live in a fallen world. Bad stuff happens. Healthy habits are preventative, but not 100%.

Coping Habits

Coping habits are self-reinforcing over the short term. Just like taking a cough drop doesn’t cure your sore throat, coping habits relieve symptoms, but not root causes.

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Coping habits seem to solve problems. Remember, healthy habits prevent problems, to an extent. Similarly, because coping habits relieve symptoms, they appear to solve problems.

Coping habits decrease or stall productivity. Coping habits allow you to say “I’ll handle it later.” But because they don’t solve problems, the stress of the problem doesn’t go away. Higher stress leads to lower productivity.

Coping habits take space. Just like healthy habits create space by increasing productivity, coping habits make space by reducing productivity. They are two sides of a coin.

How to Form Healthy Habits

Support ≠ Accountability. @DanielTStephens

Gretchen Rubin says that a key question about habit formation is “how do you respond to expectation?”

If internal (self-determined) expectations help you, then you need to want change for yourself. All the accountability in the world won’t help you. Support will help, but support is different from accountability. If internal expectations hinder you, and external expectations assist you, then you need accountability like you need air and water.

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Enjoying the journey as much as the destination is also essential. There are lessons to be learned in every moment. Some things change slowly, some habits stall, and lack of progress can be discouraging. Learn from it, don’t dwell on it.

Don’t over-do habits. Too many changes at once, or too big of a change in too little time is overwhelming. The tortoise wins the race, not the hare.

Habits to Consider

  1. Smile more often
  2. Say thank you more often
  3. Share credit for achievement with others
  4. Share your ideas
  5. Keep a to-do list
  6. Update your calendar
  7. Keep a budget
  8. Eat better
  9. Read more
  10. Pray more
  11. SET GOALS (Click Here to download a free goal setting worksheet)


  1. What have been the most valuable healthy habits that you have established in your life?
  2. What have been the most valuable coping habits that you have established in your life?

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By Dan

Founder, Executive Director, Mental Health Counselor at Restored Life Counseling