A habit is an act that when repeated over a period of time, becomes second nature, and then slowly grows into part of your lifestyle. Creating a new, healthy habit is all about repetition – which initially, is the most difficult part. Start out with one or two small healthy habits that you would like to achieve so that you don’t get overwhelmed and discouraged. A few examples are as follows:
- Drink 8 glasses of water per day
- Exercise 2 times per week
- Make 4 dinners at home per week
- Walk for 20 min. during lunch break 3 days per week
During the first weeks, it may be difficult to remember to do your task since you . The easiest reminder I have found is a simple Habit Check List. I place it in a location that I pass everyday, and it reminds me to complete the task.
Don’t get discouraged if you are unable to complete your task(s) every single day. This is a learning experience that will show you how you are motivated. Look back and focus on the days that you were able to complete your tasks. Figure out what was different about those days compared to days you were unable to complete your task, and try to repeat it every day. Soon, you will be more consistent, and it will turn into a habit. (Related: Motivation #7 Focus on accomplishments (bright spots) and eliminate distractions).
Just as a healthy habit can be formed through repetition, an unhealthy habit can be broken through this same strategy. For challenging bad habits, be sure to start slow and manageable, and then gradually cut the habits out completely. Below are a few examples:
- Do not drink alcohol on the week days
- Eat out a MAX of 2 times per week
- Do not eat the cookies in the break room
- Smoke a MAX of 3 cigarettes per day
The ’21 days to form a habit’ idea is unfortunately a myth. Everyone will develop a habit over a different period of time – there is no set date for habit formation. In a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, a habit will form (where you automatically do the task) after an average of 66 days, but upwards of 254 days. In other words, it may take someone more or less time than this average. So keep this in mind and do your best to stick to it!