Habit (noun): a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.
We all have habits in our lives, most commonly known as our “routines.” You know your routine, those steps you take each day, almost without even thinking about it.
• Morning coffee
• Snacks after dinner
• Leaving for work at the same time each morning
• Brushing your teeth
• Washing your face
These habits did not take much to instill into you, and it might even be hard to think back to when they started, as they have always been a habit. Habits can be our greatest strengths or our downfalls, depending on the habits themselves. A habit of hitting the gym on your drive home from work is a great way to ensure you get your activity in, brushing your teeth twice a day is crucial to dental health, and going to bed at the same time each night makes sure you get enough sleep. However, habits such as mindlessly snacking in front of the tv, or having a few beers with friends, and pizza with your beers, can be pretty rough on your overall health. Doing these actions a few times, even once or twice a week, is one thing, but them being habitual can be detrimental to your health.
Maybe you have some goals for healthy habits for your life. Maybe you’d like to hit the gym three times a week, or maybe even just drinking a glass of water right when you wake up (so good for your digestive system, and helps to rehydrate you after sleeping all night. Highly recommend). No matter what the habit is, the way to get there is the same.
Step One: Create a goal using the SMART method of goal setting (found here)
Step Two: perform the action once.
Step Three: repeat the action for at least 21 days
Step Four: keep repeating the action for at least 6 weeks
It takes at the minimum 21 days of consistency for an action to become a habit. The “21 day rule” came into effect Dr. Maltz, a plastic surgeon in the 50s, noticed it took 21 days for his patients to get used to seeing their new looks. He then noticed it took 21 days for him to put a new habit in place. The problem is, after 21 days, it’s not a settled, automatic action yet. Once you’ve hit the 21 day mark, the action is integrated into your routine, which makes you remember to do it more, but, at this point, you still have to consciously make the effort to perform the action.
According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), and their health coach certification that I hold, it takes at least 6 weeks of performing an action consistently for it to be a settled part of your routine. Once you have been performing this action for 6 weeks, it will be extremely hard to give up, making it a part of your every day life.
Habits can take time to form properly, and can be a tedious process as each habit requires its own process to form. The payoff from creating these healthy habits, in the correct way, can be incredibly important to your long term health success. Pick an action you want to incorporate, and get to habit forming. One day at a time, one step at a time, one habit at a time.
“It doesn’t matter how slow you go, as long as you don’t stop.”