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This post looks at key tactics to build healthy habits overtime, as well as a couple of ideas for replacing old habits with more productive ones to suit your lifestyle.
Consistency and intensity. The two words repeated time and time again by my yoga teacher during my Yoga Teacher Training in 2019, and the two words that have stuck with me ever since.
Whatever you want to achieve, whatever goals you have in life, those two things will get you there. Consistency, and intensity.
21 days to make a habit?
The theory that it takes 21 days to make a habit was first introduced by Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon in the 1950s, and the term quickly stuck.
Is it true, though? It’s hard to say. Life would be a whole lot easier if we all fit learned the exact same way, but in truth, forming new habits will be a breeze for some people, and something that needs to be worked at overtime for others.
For example, research from Phillipa Lally in 2009 suggested that in a pool of 96 participants, it could take anywhere between 18 to 254 days to reach 95% of their asymptote of automaticity – i.e. form a habit.
4 WAYS TO build healthy HABITs OVER TIME:
If you want to be good at something, you need to do it consistently. Whether that’s every day, multiple times a day, a few times a week, or less frequently really depends on what kind of habit you’re trying to form (a regular fitness routine versus learning a new language, for example).
It may take you a couple of weeks, or it may take you months – but when it comes down to it, successfully acquiring a new skill and being able to build healthy habits all lies in sticking with it, working at it, and not giving up.
An anecdote: last year, I set my sights on achieving the splits. For me, it was a good indication of improving my flexibility, something I’d never done before, and a goal I really wanted to achieve.
While stretching and my yoga practice were a consistent part of my week, intensity was the other key ingredient. Not pushing yourself and not challenging yourself won’t necessarily mean you won’t achieve a habit – but it could slow you down significantly.
3. Set yourself a challenge
Breaking down a habit into a more digestible approach can be a good way of implementing it into your life more effectively.
Start with a 30-day challenge, for example, telling yourself you’ll stick to whatever habit you choose for one month only. By the end of that challenge, you should be in a much better place to decide if that habit suits your lifestyle and how to fit it more naturally into your life.
4. If you slip up, just get back on track with no judgement
We’re all only human, after all. You’re bound to make mistakes, slip up, and let old habits return in place of the healthier habits you’re trying to build.
If you slip up, try not to judge yourself too much and simply get back on track as soon as you can. This applies especially with habits such as trying to eat healthier – if you have an ‘unhealthy’ meal, don’t write off the entire day. Just pick back up where you left off with your next meal.
HABIT IDEAS TO TRY BUILDING
Struggling to think of habits to try sticking to? Here are a couple of ideas:
- Build more minimalist habits
- Start eating healthier (perhaps consider a plant-based diet)
- Build a regular workout routine
- Start meditating daily
- Practising a new skill regularly (a language, an instrument, learning new recipes, a new sport…)
- Creating a healthier morning routine