Studies have shown that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. These studies also indicate that the action has to be performed every day in that 21-day period to really stick.
Other experts suggest doing something for one month, since not everyone will stick to something new every single day for 21 days.
So what does all this mean for those of us trying to improve our healthy habits? I see it as consistency and small steps.
If you are trying to make positive changes this year, here are some tips to get you started.
- Don't try to change everything at once. If you want to stop smoking, eat more healthfully, and lose weight, you may want to tackle these issues one at a time. You could become overwhelmed with the sheer magnitude of trying to do it all at once and give up on all of it, never to try again. That is not the way to go! Pick one habit and work on that before adding another.
- You can do anything for one month. Don't try to pretend you will never eat junk food again. Just give it up for one month while you work on eating better. Breaking time into months makes your objective so much more manageable and less daunting. Plus if you mess up, there's always next month!
- Stop thinking of foods as good or bad. Yes, you do want to limit high-fat/high-sugar foods. But if you think of them as no-nos, you'll only want them more. If you allow yourself to have the foods you want, in moderation, you will be less likely to overindulge.
- Write it down. Whether you are going to work out 4 days a week, or want to eat healthfully, writing down your actions will help you reach your goals. Seeing those blank days on the calendar will help you get out there and take a walk. Adding up those calories will help you see how well you are doing and where you can make little adjustments.
- Give up the All-or-Nothing attitude. Just because you messed up one day, one week, one month, or even one whole year is no reason to give up on yourself altogether. Every day is a new day and you can start again any time. Never give up. Never surrender.
- Find what works for you. Some people will tell you that you have to go to the gym to work out. Others say walk in your neighborhood. Walk with a friend. Walk your dog. Buy a home gym. Etc, etc, etc. Truth is, for your new habit to stick, you're going to have to figure out what works for you. I don't like running in my neighborhood because of the dogs and lack of sidewalks. I don't like the Coliseum because of the walkers taking up the entire catwalk. I don't mind the gym, but I'm too cheap to pay for membership. What works for me is going to McLane Park. It's the only way that works for me. Figure out what is going to work for you.
- Don't expect miracles. You probably are not going to lose 5 pounds in a week. You may not lose 5 p0unds in a month. But you are going to get healthier, increase your life span, decrease your disease risk, and feel more energized if you not only start up a healthy habit, but keep it for life.