In his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg talks about something researchers call “keystone habits.”
According to Duhigg, keystone habits are “small changes or habits that people introduce into their routines that unintentionally carry over into other aspects of their lives.”
Like the keystone in an arch, these habits have a synergistic effect that overflows into other areas of your life.
Exercise is a well-known keystone habit. When people start exercising, it has an affect on many other areas of their lives, including patience and productivity.
Having dinner as a family is another keystone habit which has outsized beneficial effects in areas such as children’s emotional control and performance at school. 
Keystone Spiritual Habits
What about spiritual habits and disciplines? Are there any keystone habits when it comes to Christianity? There most certainly are, in fact – most of the spiritual disciplines that are taught in the Bible would qualify as keystone habits, which have effects which overflow into other areas of your life.
See also: The Role of Habits in Transformation & Inputs and Outputs for Growth and Maturity
For example, giving, both in generosity towards others and to support the work of God through the church, is a spiritual discipline. One pastor I know used to explain tithing and financial giving like this:
“Tithing isn’t God’s way of raising money, it’s God’s way of raising kids.”
His point was that when God calls us to give, it’s not because He needs money, but because we need to benefit from the practice of giving away 10% or more of our money.
Giving/tithing/generosity is a keystone habit; it shapes the way you live in other areas of your life. It shapes the way you think about what you possess, and the purpose of your life. Since money is literally effort and time made tangible, you are making a choice to spend your life on things other than yourself: on other people, and on furthering the work of God.
Jesus told us that where your treasure is, your heart will be also. This is true: if you give towards someone or something, you will be much more interested and invested in what happens, rather than if you did not have any skin in the game.
Another pastor explained it like this: when you give, you are making a conscious choice not to let your money or possessions possess you. You are choosing to love people and use money, rather than love money and use people. You are deciding that you will not let money set its claws into your heart.
According to an article about these studies in Psychology Today, praying makes you nicer, more forgiving, more trusting, and offsets the negative health effects of stress. Prayer has also been shown to boost self-control.
In his book, Your Future Self Will Thank You, Drew Dyke cites a study on spiritual growth which surveyed more than 250,000 people in 1,000 churches. Their conclusion was that nothing has a greater impact on spiritual growth than engagement with Scripture. Their research showed that Bible-engagement is the single most spiritually catalytic activity a person can engage in.
A 2016 Harvard study found that frequent church attendance actually lowers the likelihood of death over a 20 year period 😮. Studies show that churchgoers are less prone to mental illness, report higher levels of happiness, and have better sex lives. Students who attend church regularly have higher GPAs on average and are less likely to live in poverty. 
See: “After 12 Years Of Quarterly Church Attendance, Parents Shocked By Daughter’s Lack Of Faith” – from the Babylon Bee
Before it was cool…
Basically, the Bible has been teaching “keystone habits” since before it was cool. What we have now is a large body of research which explains how and why these practices are so effective in shaping us our lives, leading to greater well-being all around.
May we, by God’s strength that he gives us, apply these habits in our lives, for His glory, and our good.
3 thoughts on “Keystone Habits and Christianity”
Wow! Thank you for the exhortation. I also hope that I can also rekindle some of the spiritual habits that I have lost along the way like prayer.
Agreed. Developing Keystone Spiritual Habits grows into an unshakable love for Christ.