Some research says forming a habit is simple and takes just 21 days of commitment. However, regardless of the time frame you subscribe to, creating a pattern in your mind and body takes the willingness to venture into new, unknown territory.
I personally believe forming new habits is a lot easier then getting rid of the old ones, but I am sure there are arguments on both sides. As the calendar turns we often find ourselves debating habits to make and break, usually involving a battle of wills such as participating in exercise, increasing water consumption and abandoning vices such as sweets, alcohol, etc.
Few people, however, tend to make a commitment to focusing on learning more about themselves. Digging deeper into the psyche of who we are (and who we want to be) with less focus on how others see us, or even how we see ourselves. Think of each person as an onion, as we learn more about ourselves, we peel back a layer that allows us to shine through as a clearer version of ourselves.
Use today as a do-over, a chance to reinvent our resolution and form a new habit – one that helps us get closer to who we want to be and understand more about who we are. Here are seven habit-forming tips to help you get to the next layer of being you.
1. Pick an activity/habit that is familiar to you.
The habit should build on something that is familiar to you but that you want to explore. You can explore it physically, such as how does my body feel when I coax it into these unusual shapes? Or emotionally, how does doing this activity make me feel about myself? What can I learn about myself from this activity?
Some habits that you might consider exploring could include: discovering [insert continent] cuisine, walking with a neighbor/colleague daily, or exploring a regular yoga practice, the possibilities are endless.
2. Make it daily.
Today is the day, so is tomorrow and don’t forget the day after that. If you find that you have time to do your new activity daily, commit to doing a part of it each day.
No time for dancing – have a dance party in your kitchen while making dinner. Limited time for a walk after work – get off one subway stop earlier and get a mini walk in on your way to work. No time for yoga – do a few poses before tucking yourself in or practice a few poses when you first wake up to set your mood for the day ahead.
3. Verbalize your commitment to a friend(s).
It can be scary to announce the pursuit of something new to the people in your life. Aside from being a motivator to get things, you may even recruit that person to join you in your journey.
Think about the commitments a close friend may have shared with you, and how you felt being a part of their journey. Share that same experience with someone else.
4. Hang your golden carrot.
We’ve all seen the cartoon where the animal races faster forward because they can see a carrot in front of them just out of their reach.
Using the same philosophy, what is your golden carrot? A day at the spa? A vintage bottle of wine? Having a night on the town with a loved one? Find something that feels like it would be a wonderful motivator and something you can look forward to on your journey to your newly formed habit.
5. If all else fails, consider it an experiment.
When scientists conduct an experiment and something goes horribly wrong, or they need to reboot, they simply start over again. If in your experiment to a new habit you find that it was too aggressive, not challenging enough, no longer of interests you, or needs something extra umpf, simply take that moment to call it an experiment and start over again.
6. Set a reasonable time frame.
Not too short, not to long, but just long enough that you can evaluate whether this is a habit you want to continue to grow or one that you are simply happy you tried out. I personally believe three weeks (or 21 days) is a good time period.
I’ve been on vacations where after three weeks I knew I was ready for home. Conversely, there have been times when I moved to a new city or house and the first three weeks were strange and I questioned myself and then something shifted and it was smooth sailing. It’s time to figure out your trial period and stick to it.
7. Do it for yourself.
Some of us do things for others all the time (and some people do it even more as a parent, caregiver or in careers focused on giving). Whatever you choose do it for the right reasons, and do it for yourself – to make you happy, to discover more about yourself, or simply to push your boundaries and open your mind.
Whatever the challenge is that you decide to take on, do it to explore your horizons, learn more about yourself and dream bigger then ever before. Take each moment for what it is, and learn from your experience. This month grow as a person, and see where your new habit can take you.
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Note: This blog provides general information and discussion about medicine, health and related subjects. The words and other content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately-licensed health care worker.