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It's easy to talk about breaking bad habits, but it's extremely difficult to succeed without replacing them with something new. The term "habit" refers to set rituals and patterns in your life. We are creatures of habit, we settle into a way of doing things and don't particularly like to change it. Not all habits are bad, but most of us have a couple of habits that we want to be rid of. Rather than focusing on breaking a bad habit, turn your focus to building new ones. It's much easier to build something new that gradually replaces old patterns than it is to force ourselves to remove an old tendency entirely. Remember that wellness is a marathon, not a sprint. 

how long does it actually take to build a new habit?

You've probably heard that it takes 21 days to build a new habit. That's bogus, go ahead and forget that statistic. According to recent studies, simple daily actions like eating a piece of fruit at lunch or exercising each morning take at least 66 days to become habitual. This number varied greatly between the participants depending on how challenging the task was. For example, doing 60 pushups before bed each night takes much longer to become a pattern than drinking an extra glass of water in the morning.  Don't set yourself up for failure by expecting something to feel easy in a few weeks. 

5 steps to changing your routine

Changing your entire routine is an intimidating project to take on. However, it doesn't have to feel as overwhelming as you think. Here are a few simple steps to successfully build new habits. 

  • 1
    Start Simple. Don't pick the most challenging habit to attack first. Start with a small addition, like drinking a glass of water before every meal, and stick to that for several weeks before adding in something new. Small victories will go a long way in your overall health.
  • 2
    Be Strategic. Don't jump into this process at random. Take time to think through your long term goals. What do you want your life to look like? What are your core values? Set goals in line with those things. Making a change because you believe in the lifelong benefits is much easier than simply trying to lose five pounds for an upcoming wedding.
  • 3
    Be Realistic. I love sugar and I love baking. I am not likely to succeed at cutting sugar out of my life entirely. However, I can change my patterns to only baking twice a month or enjoying a square of dark chocolate at night instead of several cookies. Be realistic about your goals and set yourself up for success. 
  • 4
    Share Your Goals. Talk about the changes you are making and share the journey with people around you who will be supportive. It's more fun to make changes when you have people cheering you along. Their enthusiasm will hold you accountable. 
  • 5
    Take the Long View. Steel yourself for the long haul and don't become easily discouraged when making changes feels like a battle. Missing a day or two does not make you a failure. Simply go to bed and get back at it tomorrow.  

If you have always wanted to prioritize your wellness and you're tired of feeling like you take care of everyone else, then don't wait any longer to start this journey. Changing daily patterns is challenging, but also very rewarding and worth every ounce of effort. 

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