Health & Habits
Creating Good Habits 101
Posted Jan 27, 2021
Many people want to be healthy. Many people try to be healthy. But we often underestimate the power of small daily habits that can significantly improve our health and well-being in the long run.
First off, how long does it take to create a new habit? Contrary to popular belief, it may not be 21 days. This timeframe became widely accepted when Dr. Maxwell Maltz wrote his best-selling book “Psycho-Cybernetics’ in 1960. The book went on to become a blockbuster hit, selling more than 30 million copies, and that’s when the misconception started.
This idea perpetuated until others challenged its validity. In 2009, Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London, conducted a study that was published in the European Journal of Social Psychology to figure out just how long it actually takes to form a habit.
The answer? On average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact. And the time it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behavior, person, and circumstances. In Lally's study, it took anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for people to form a new habit.
If we’re simply trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle, what daily habits can we implement for this time period that can actually stick?
Hydration is something we all hear is important, yet many of us fall short on drinking enough water. This is important throughout the day, but especially in the morning, after you've gone seven-plus hours without any liquids during sleep. Many of our bodily functions depend on water, so upon waking, it’s helpful to drink a glass or two. If you'd like to improve the structure of your water, simply add some Himalayan pink salt and some lemon juice for electrolytes.
Our bodies weren't made to be sedentary. Movement is critical to feel your best throughout the day, so simply walking for 10 minutes, practicing yoga, or stretching can have big benefits. If you go outside, you can also reap the additional benefits of receiving sunlight on your body, which will help maintain a healthy circadian rhythm, which is crucial for healthy sleep.
3. Take a cold shower
This one may be tough. Cold showers have been proven to promote fat loss, improve immunity, provide better circulation, drain the lymphatic system, promote emotional resilience, lower stress, lower chances of depression, and increase testosterone levels. No need to start "cold" turkey with this habit; ease your way in by turning the shower knob to cold for 10 seconds. Then the next day, try 20 seconds, and progress from there.
The first thing you eat to "break the fast" is incredibly important to successfully set up your day. The traditional sugary carbohydrate sources such as bagels, muffins, pancakes, etc. will set you up for not only a crash mid-morning, but also a craving for similar foods throughout the day. Making sure you focus on high fat and protein foods such as nuts and seeds alongside low sugar fruits (berries and kiwis) are great starting points. A favorite of many are smoothies, and an easy way to get some high-quality protein in is with Vedge Plant Protein. Boasting 25 grams of USDA Certified Organic plant protein in each serving, it tastes great either mixed alone with water or with a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
In addition to breakfast, a nutrient-dense lunch will allow your body to thrive and avoid the dreaded "2:30" feeling. Ditch the typical sandwich and instead focus on salads consisting of dark leafy greens (spinach, romaine, chard, or kale), good fats, and protein sources like beans and legumes. Avoiding heavy carbs at this time will keep you powering on through the day.
If you don't typically get enough sleep throughout the night, a nap during the day might be just what you need to continue performing at your best. If you fall short on sleep the night before, you can still benefit from a 30-minute nap after lunch to catch up. Plugging in headphones and listening to some binaural beats can help expedite the process. A little nap can go a long way to restore focus and energy levels.
7. Focus on completing the day’s tasks
Taking pause to remind yourself of your priorities throughout the day can dramatically increase your productivity. Making sure you schedule appropriate time to tackle each item on your to-do list is imperative toward achieving a sense of accomplishment.
Ensuring enough time for exercise is one of the most crucial habits to maintain robust health. It can help improve energy levels, burn fat, increase emotional well-being, and increase the quality of sleep. Exercise can take on many forms: walking, playing with your kids, or traditional weight training. Find what you enjoy most, and do it regularly. And, if you’re looking for a little extra boost during your activity, Vedge Nutrition Pre-Workout and Nitro Pump are great for not only increasing blood flow, boosting nitric oxide production, and enhancing oxygen transport, but also optimizing energy levels and improving endurance.
9. Connect and be social
Just as we were meant to move, humans were also wired to be social. Calling a friend, joining a social club, or spending time with a loved one can reap emotional benefits and combat a sense of loneliness. With the increasing presence of social media in our lives today, it's becoming easier and easier to feel isolated, but real human connection can be the simple antidote we need.
Dinnertime is the best time to let loose and feast. Enjoy home cooked meals with others, but don't eat too late; a good rule of thumb is to finish your meal at least 3 hours before bedtime. Doing so will allow your body to focus on the many repair processes that take place during sleep, instead of digesting food.
BONUS 11. Reflect
What went well throughout the day? What didn't? How can you improve to make a better tomorrow? Taking time to be still and ask these and other questions can help you set goals and focus on what's important to you. Journaling, meditating, and reading a book are all great ways to wind down and prepare for a restful night’s sleep.
Forming habits takes time, energy, and discipline. Embracing just a few of these habits above will certainly help move the needle toward overall health and wellness. There is no need to judge yourself, and you don't have to be perfect. Making a mistake once or twice has no measurable impact on your long-term habits, so embracing the process and making incremental steps will set you up for success - just know it may take longer than 21 days.
Written by Brett Malaney
Lally, P., van Jaarsveld, C.H.M., Potts, H.W.W. and Wardle, J. (2010), How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol., 40: 998-1009. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.674