HABIT: 1. regularly repeated behavior pattern: an action or pattern of behavior that is repeated so often that it becomes typical of somebody, although he or she may be unaware of it. (Encarta Dictionary)
A couple of months ago I began a journey to bring some new habits into my life. I had read that it takes 21 days for something to become a habit, so I decided to do a little experiment on myself. I made a list of the new practices I wanted to incorporate into my life, and slowly began adding them to my days.
After 47 days I had incorporated all of my new habits for at least 21 days. Are they really habits now? Well according to the definition above I can positively say . . . maybe.
They have definitely been repeated often and my hubby thinks they’re typical (he knows not to bother me during the first hour of the morning). But a couple of them are not something of which I’m unaware, since I still have to remind myself to do them.
That being said, there have been a couple of times when I’ve made a conscious decision to skip or shorten something (due to time constraints), and I really missed doing that practice on that day. So I believe that, since I miss them when they aren’t done, these things really have become habits in my life.
Now to the list. These are the main things I learned about starting and maintaining new habits in my life.
1. START SLOWLY WITH ONE HABIT AT A TIME TO KEEP FROM BEING OVERWHELMED..
Begin with one then add another after a few days or weeks with the previous one. I started with the AM yoga routine, which I had done in the past, and it became habit quite quickly. As a matter of fact, when I added the drawing time before the yoga it took about 2 weeks of reminding myself before the drawing actually became the first habit of the morning. Adding the second AM exercise has been pretty easy since I really enjoy the ones that I do.
2. IT’S BEST TO HAVE A SPECIFIC TIME EACH DAY TO PERFORM THE ACT.
I’ve found that the habits I do first thing in the morning (a 5 minute drawing, AM yoga, second AM exercise), and at the very end of the day before bed (brush and floss teeth) have been the easiest to maintain.
3. ONCE OR TWICE A WEEK HABITS ARE MUCH HARDER TO GET INTO THAN DAILY ONES.
I want to start doing at least 1 hour of artwork a night, 2 nights a week, but haven’t been able to make this a habit yet. I think because I haven’t selected two specific nights in which to do this, it’s too easy to put it off – you know, the “I’ll do it tomorrow” mentality.
4. THE MORE IMPORTANT YOU BELIEVE THE NEW HABIT IS TO YOU THE EASIER IT IS TO MAINTAIN IT.
I’ve found that, even though I don’t do my aerobics at the same time each day, or even on the same days each week, it was so important to me to get into a regular aerobic exercise routine, that it’s been pretty easy to continue with the habit, even without a set schedule.
5. IT HELPS TO KEEP A WRITTEN RECORD.
I used a small journal to list the days, each on a separate page, and under the date, listed each habit to be performed. As I finished, I checked them off. Seeing it in writing allowed me to actually see if I missed something rather relying on my memory (Did I do a drawing this morning?)
6. MAKE YOURSELF ACCOUNTABLE SOMEHOW.
I started blogging about my new habits with a list I included every day to publicly track my progress. Having this public accountability reinforced my determination to succeed.
7. SEEK HELP.
Ask a friend or relative to help, or join a group of some sort - especially for the habits that are difficult or time consuming for you to incorporate. I joined the SP Virtual Walk/Run Challenge which made my aerobics habit even easier to get off the ground. It gave me a lot of support and encouragement, and made it a lot easier to stick to a plan because there were others doing the same thing.
I hope this list will help others to incorporate some of their own new habits into their lives. Will my habits still be with me a few years (or even months) from now? I hope so. I think so. We'll see!!