Have you ever heard it takes 21 days to create a new habit? Experts say it’s actually closer to 66 days for that habit to become a natural part of your routine. Everyone has habits – good or bad. Brushing your teeth in the morning and night is a habit that you barely think about because it’s become so ingrained in your daily routine. Drinking enough water might be a habit that is harder for you. Some days you’ll do really well, and others you’ll not drink much at all.
There are things we want to, and know we should do, because they are good for us. Exercising, drinking enough water, praying, or getting a good night’s rest are things we want to be habits.We want these things to be as routine as natural as brushing our teeth, but creating new habits takes time and effort.
Here are 9 tips from our YMCA health and wellness team to create habits:
- Focus on one new habit at a time.
As with almost anything, it’s easier if you focus on forming one habit at a time. Trying to change too much at one time can lead to burnout, fatigue, and failure.
- Start simple and build.
Set yourself up for success with any habit by taking small steps. If you’re trying to build a habit of running, start by running a short distance each day. Once you’re in the habit of running a little each day, start adding distance or speed goals.
- Commit to a minimum of 30 days.
If you start with the idea of making this a lifetime habit, you run the risk of being overwhelmed. Instead, commit to smaller chunks of time. Tell yourself you only have to do this for a month, then, when a month is up, you’ll have momentum to add another month. Pretty soon, after a few month-long commitments, you’ll have hahabit.
- Don’t expect perfection.
No one is perfect. The good news is, you aren’t expected to be! Know that there will be slip ups as you form habits. If you’re hoping to make daily exercise a habit, there may be a day where life gets in the way and you just can’t fit it in. One day is OK. Try your very best not to let it happen two days in a row through, so you don’t start reversing all of your hard work.
- Track it.
Visual cues can help you stay accountable and keep the momentum going. You can easily find a habit tracking template like this one, or just draw a simple chart on a piece of paper and put it somewhere that you’ll see daily. You’ll find accomplishment in checking off each day you practice your habit.
- Get an accountable-a-buddy.
Yes, we made up that term, but we stand firm on the idea of finding a friend who can help keep you accountable. Share your overall goal, and keep that person updated as you progress and ask for encouragement when you need it.
- Remember why you started.
When you’re having a hard time sticking to your habit, remember why you started. Envision how you’ll feel once your practice becomes a habit. If you’re wanting to become a runner, imagine how it’ll feel running across the finish line at your first (or 15 th ) race or simply keeping up with your kids or grandkids.
- Connect your new habit to an established habit.
If you’re wanting to make prayer a daily habit, for example, consider praying while you’re brushing your teeth in the morning and night. Since brushing your teeth is already an established habit, you less likely to forget or run out of time in the day to pray.
- Reward yourself.
This might be the best part! Reward yourself not only at the 66-day mark when your practice becomes a habit, but at milestones along the way. Did you practice your habit for 14 days in a row? Great – reward yourself with something little. One month and you’re still going strong? Sounds like you deserve a reward. Celebrate the journey.
Which habit will you focus on this month? What will it feel like when it becomes a habit?
How will it affect other parts of your life? Map it out and get started.
We’re here to help you on the journey.
To build faith habits, connect with our YMCA Chaplain.
To build fitness habits, connect with one of our personal trainers.
To build healthy eating habits, connect with one of our nutritionists at Lifestyle
To help build healthy habits with your kids, connect with our Youth Director.