It’s so easy to get caught up in the thought process that’s centered around what we have to avoid. Somehow, we mistake depriving ourselves of pleasure as a form of self-discipline. But I truly believe a healthy lifestyle is every bit as much (if not more so) dependent on what we DO as it is on what we DON’T do.

Find good habits to add to your life like consistent exercise, nutrient-rich foods and a sufficient sleep schedule, as opposed to eliminating the negative stuff deemed “unhealthy.” If you devote your attention solely to removing things that make you happy, what will you be left with? Lists of off-limit foods? Guilt from the times you inevitably mess up?

If you focus on the positive, there’s an excellent chance you’ll be left with a lifestyle change. So out with the bad and in with the good! Here are a few easy-to-form habits that will make you and your family happier and healthier:

• Set a REALISTIC exercise goal. Maybe you don’t have time to exercise at all. You’re not alone (read here for some small changes to make in lieu of a formal exercise schedule). But, if you do have the time, but just aren’t making it, start small. Aim for three 30-minute sessions per week. And if you need even more help, sign yourself up for a class instead of just going to the gym. Pay for it beforehand. You’ll be motivated by not wanting to waste money, and once you get to class, the group dynamic will push you to work out harder.

• Lose the extreme diets. Atkins, South Beach, the cabbage soup diet—you’ve heard of them and maybe tried them. Now, forget them. We all know everything in moderation and portion control are the keys to dieting success. Plenty of fruits and veggies also play a big role. And keep in mind, any “diet” you try is an example to your children on how to eat. If you wolf down a steak every night and eschew every fruit that comes your way, you are telling your child that’s an acceptable way to eat. Set an example of eating well balanced, nutritious meals with the occasional “cheat day” and your kids will learn your habits and become healthy adults.

• Watch your screen time, literally. These days, it’s easy to sit in front of the TV while scanning your iPad or laptop and checking phone messages. Try to adapt a “one screen at a time” rule. If you’re watching TV, watch TV. And while we’re on the subject of TV—how much ARE you watching? Do you find you’re keeping it on all day just for the background noise? Try some music instead. If you have small children at home with you, you’ll need to lead by example when it comes to the TV, computer and phone.
• Create a phone policy with your family. Speaking of the phone—are you guilty of phone abuse? You know what this means. Do you text, talk or e-mail from your phone while you’re driving? Time to make a no-phone policy in the car. Those darling little tykes in your back seat are watching every move you make and someday they’ll be driving teenagers. Do you want them texting and driving? Make it clear there is a no-phone rule in the car in your family right off the bat. By the time they are teenagers, it will be ingrained into their brains.
• Say something nice. Finally, it’s easy to get into a nagging habit with your kids. “Pick up your toys.” “Brush your teeth.” “Don’t touch that.” Although you say these things for their own good, sometimes children (just like adults) want to hear what they’re doing right. Try praising your child for something completely unexpected every day: “Great job cleaning your plate at dinner,” or “You were very good at sharing your toys at play group.” No need to praise every little thing they do, just remember to throw a compliment their way, especially on a day that feels like nothing is going right!
Remember, focus on the things you want to see take root in your life. The more you identify and incorporate the habits you want to form, the less you’ll have to think about the things you want to leave behind. The unwanted tendencies tend to take flight without a fight when better activities take their place.

So, what will you focus on this week? Maybe try to eat two home-cooked, preservative-free meals, or will resolve to exercise 30 minutes more this week than you did last week. Think about what you want to add to your life, and I think you’ll be surprised at how easily the things you’ve been trying to remove will disappear.