Society has spread a common myth that it takes 21 day’s to make or break a habit. My analytical self questions the idea that this random number was just picked out of a hat and has fast become a trend. Scientists have proven this myth true as in some study cases behavioral change took place within a 3 week period. So is it a myth or fact, and does it serve a purpose? Whether the magic number is 21, 30, 50 or 500, it’s all about making goals and having a deadline in place for maximum effectiveness. With that said I think there is reason to apply this myth in your personal goal setting.
The quote “old habits die hard” is a fact, but let’s not forget that they can and will die eventually with hard work and determination. If we want to make a change we just have to believe we can, and then take action. Making new habits is much easier but still proves to be challenging for many of us humble mortals:-)
I believe there is too much focus on breaking an old habit instead of focusing on swapping it for a good one.
I’m going to take 5 common bad habits and show you what I mean by shifting the focus on something positive.
1. Eating too fast – Eating fast or gulping without chewing due to work pressure or a lack of time can put tremendous pressure on your digestive system and will effect the body in more way’s than one. Heart burn, acidity, bloating, excess gas in the stomach are all nasty side effects. Eating fast also makes room for extra calories and weight gain as the brain only starts to tell the belly that it’s full after approximately 20 minutes.
Reverse the habit – Practice mindful eating. Take small bites of food feeling the texture change in your mouth, allowing you to savor each flavor. Concentrate on chewing the food till it’s practically blended in your mouth. Feel the food nourish your body as you swallow. Put your phone away, step away from the TV, put aside your book and live in the moment enjoying every bite!
2. Drinking too much alcohol – Over drinking can result in brittle bones, memory loss, liver failure, high blood pressure, and depression.
Reverse the habit – Stick to a healthy limit, drinking for flavor rather than to get drunk. Drink with meals like the French & Italians this way you’re more likely to sip slowly instead of binge. Why not swap a delicious tea on most evenings instead of a glass of wine? My recent obsession is a Yogi Sweet Chai! I know it sounds like an old lady thing to do, but sometimes all we want to do is relax in the evenings sipping something in hand…why not try a few evenings with a good old cup of tea!
3. Stress, Anger & Worry – Bad behavior such as stress and worry can cause a lot of damage on the body, it can lower immunity, cause weight-gain from comfort eating, high-blood pressure, and depression.
Reverse the habit – Engage in a stress reduced program such as yoga or meditation. Add a bit of fun in your life by doing something goofy releasing the inner child. Dance in your kitchen like no one’s watching. Adopt a positive outlook on life by practicing mindfulness and gratitude. Be the optimist seeing the good in everything!
4. Eating too much fast food and sugary treats – Having a hamburger and chips once in a while isn’t going to kill you, but eating it regularly can cause diabetes, heart disease, digestive disorders, and hardening of the arteries. Not to mention tooth decay from sugary treats!
Reverse the habit – Aim to pack a lunch or healthy sandwiches especially when going on a family outing this way when hunger strikes fast food isn’t the only quick option to quickly fill those hungry bellies. If you usually have a daily chocolate treat try opting for some other decadent but healthy treat. My choice would be a bowl of juicy berries!
5. Addiction to Facebook surfing before bed – I think this is a common bad habit, we hop into bed and have to spend another half hour looking at our social media, not realizing that it’s keeping us awake and not allowing our mind and body to shut down and relax. The result is less sleep, insomnia, followed by a bad day from waking up in the morning like a tired grouch!
Reverse the habit – I’ve made the habit of falling asleep with meditation/spa music off you tube on my phone, this not only puts me to sleep like a baby but it stops me from being able to look at Facebook as my phone can’t do both at the same time.
Whether the 21 day’s myth is fact or fiction, I like to believe it’s a good place to start on the road to a personal accomplishment. I love a challenge with a timeline as it works more effectively for me. The truth is it might actually take 30 to 50 day’s for me to really make or break a habit, but psychologically the 21 Days myth sits well. It’s short and sweet, and very doable! It also helps me be patient knowing things don’t change over night but with time I’ll get there.
I encourage you to go on a journey, starting your very own 21 day challenge! You can make it whatever you wish it to be, from starting a new hobby, to getting into yoga and meditation, holding a gratitude journal, to help you quit smoking, or to get fit. If you’re looking to get into clean eating you could put together 21 healthy recipes to eat each day, or if you’re looking to feed your mind and soul start on 21 day’s of mindfulness!
Whatever it may be find it, start it, and stick with it, you’ll be happy you did as you feel amazing and accomplished!