The Truth About How Long it Takes to Create a Healthy Habit
Do you ever feel like creating healthier habits like working out and eating healthier is a lot of harder than it should be? I get it. The IDEA of changing our habits, or adopting new ones can seem overwhelming. But I’ve got some news for you that I hope makes you feel a whole lot better about it!
In fact, I’m going to do a series of blog posts on habits to help you get over the overwhelm and start making healthy, positive changes. But first it’s important to understand habit building itself and WHY we think it’s so hard to change. In a nutshell, it all comes down to one thing. Your MINDSET. Once you get your mindset right, everything else begins to fall into place.
Fun fact: Did you know that having a positive mindset can actually help you make healthier choices and actually live longer? Even better fact: You don’t have to be born with a positive mindset. It’s something you can create and strengthen over time.
I think we’ve all struggled with mastering new habits – things like meal prep (and then actually eating the meals we prepped), sticking with a new workout plan, getting up earlier, reading more, etc. I know that when I’m trying to get back into my habit of using my food journal after every meal, I’ll do great for a few days (or even a few weeks) and then boom! All of a sudden I forget or (confession) totally blow it off. Maybe it’s because I’m busy, tired, or who knows what. Anyway, I start slipping.
And then I start to feel a little guilty… then I get angry or upset with myself … and then I end up saying “I’ll just start again tomorrow” or “I’ll start in New Year.” (Cue the endless loop of frustration!).
Well, have you ever heard the saying that it only takes three weeks to make a new habit? I am not sure who came up with that number, but guess what? It’s WRONG! It actually takes NEARLY THREE TIMES LONGER than that – depending on the person, the habit, and the situation.
A study from Australia found that on average, it takes about 66 days to develop a new habit. This news actually makes me feel a lot better, and I hope it does you, too. It takes the pressure off being “perfect” right out of the gate.
Creating a new habit can be hard, and you can end up with unrealistic expectations – like having it mastered in just a few weeks. Or being perfect at it on day two. Let’s just put it on the table and say that’s completely unrealistic.
The study also showed that missing a day or two doesn’t mean you’re back to square one in creating the habit. Be prepared to slip up now and then, and when you do, get yourself back on track as soon as possible. Eventually, it WILL become easier, especially when you start to see the results of all your effort!
Lasting changes take time – so whenever possible, make sure you pick a habit that you are between 80 – 90% sure you can do! If the habit seems like you won’t be able to do it on your most hectic or crazy days then dial it back, see how you can lower the difficulty level until you feel it’s totally doable. It’ll increase the likelihood you’ll own that new habit.
The other thing to remember is that you CAN build healthy habits, even over the holiday season. It just takes picking the right habit, making it doable and having the mindset that you can totally handle it. Maybe that’s meal prepping some healthy lunches to offset indulgent dinners or parties. Maybe that’s swapping your calorie laden latte for a lightened up version that you make at home. And maybe that’s going for a walk for 30 minutes a day on your lunch break instead of sitting in front of your computer.
Do you need a little strategy session to come up with troubleshooting advice for making those habits a reality? If so, be sure to get in touch with me and let’s see if we can’t get you feeling confident about your habit this month!