How many days do you think it takes to create a positive habit? Most of us have a habit we’d like to break or one we’d like to develop. Studies show it takes 21 days – just three short weeks – to create a new habit.
If we can maintain consistency with a positive action over a three-week period, we can change our lifestyle. At that point, quitting smoking or choosing to exercise will become second nature.
A habit is a pattern of behavior that has become normalized to the point it takes very little effort to complete and becomes second nature to you. In essence, a habit is something you do unconsciously, without needing to talk yourself into it.
Types of Habits
We often think of habits as negative things, but there are lots of positive habits as well. Good habits include punctuality, brushing your teeth, or healthy eating. Bad habits could include smoking, nail-biting, or procrastination.
As important as it is to remove negative habits, we need to embrace the positive habits that are beneficial to us.
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.
– Will Durant based on Aristotle’s teachings
The toughest part of forming a new habit is starting. Habit changing takes discipline, consistency, self-control, and belief.
Prioritize the activity as essential in your life then ensure nothing can prevent it from happening. For example, taking a walk for half an hour before work each morning. It is essential that you set a time and you walk each day at the same time with no interruptions. After three- weeks, if you do not walk in the morning, you will feel as if you have missed something out of your morning routine.
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Ever desperately try changing a habit only to find out that something deep within is not willing? It is said that it is at this moment when the subconscious and the conscious are in opposition, and in most cases, the subconscious wins. The key to developing healthy habits is to move them from the conscious level to the subconscious level.
Our habits – good and bad – drive our lives, that is why it is important to bring the bad habits into our conscious awareness and try to replace them with the good ones to move forward.
Change your Perception
Make a list of your bad habits and replace them with opposite ones. When you change your perception, your subconscious takes it in and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Fake it until you make it. Keep repeating those words to yourself, like a mantra, until you enjoy the results.
Don’t expect instant results. It takes time, dedication, and a desire to achieve your goals so don’t give up.
Set aside time for introspection and some deep analysis of your habits. Keep a journal or try mediation to help relax your mind. Keep the positive attributes coming until it becomes your new approach to life. Your mind will steer you in the right direction.
In forming new habits, it is normal to have a period when your resolve weakens and you struggle. When this happens, it is important to focus on starting the process again with no hesitation. With patience, the consistency will pay off and you will form a new healthy life habit.
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7 Steps to Make or Break a Habit
The following steps can make it easier to establish a new behavior pattern.
1. Set a Goal
Try to phrase your goal in a positive statement. Don’t say “I will quit snacking at night”, but instead say “I will practice healthy eating habits”. Write your goals down or use a daily habit tracker.
2. Replace the Behaviour
If your goal is to break a habit, then decide on the replacement behavior. This is an important step because if you want to stop a behaviour your need to put a positive one in its place, otherwise the old habit will resurface.
3. Discover Your Triggers
Behavior patterns don’t exist independently. Often, one habit is often associated with another part of your regular routine. Using the example in step one, the trigger could be late-night television or reading, which results in you grabbing a bag of chips to eat. Think about when and why you do the thing you want to quit.
4. Post Reminders to Yourself
Leave notes in the places where the behavior occurs. You can leave yourself a message on the mirror, refrigerator, computer monitor, or some other place where you will see it often.
5. Get Help From Someone
This is obvious because any job is easier with help. It works even better if you can form a partnership with someone who shares the same goal, an accountability buddy. Have them use a particular phrase to remind you of your goal.
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6. Write Daily Affirmations
Write your phrase or sentence in the present tense (as if it were already happening) and write it ten times a day for twenty-one days in a row. This process helps make your goal a part of your subconscious, which will not only remind you to practice the new behavior, but it also keeps you focused and motivated.
7. Reward Yourself
Reward yourself for making progress at set time intervals. Focus on your goal one day at a time, but give yourself a small treat at one, three, and six months. The rewards don’t have to be big or expensive, and you should try to make it something that’s associated with the goal. Doing this provides you with both incentive and extra motivation.
Following these steps is no guarantee of success, of course. Depending on the habit, it may take several tries to make the change. But if you stick with it, you can do it.
Last Words on Positive Habits
Developing habits is hard work but it can lead to big rewards. Breaking tasks down and then creating habits that support the tasks is a great way to streamline your life and create the success you deserve. Do you have any habits you would like to make or break?
Feature image by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash.