How to form habits

Let’s start with some background

From Eckert von Hirschhausen — a doctor who is writing and performing — I learned that three weeks are enough to make your body miss something that you’ve been doing during the three weeks. For example, if you go for a run twice a week for three weeks and you don’t do any sport in the 4th week, your body would feel uncomfortable, would miss the run and the feeling of it.
Something similar reported the plastic surgeon Maxwell Maltz in the 1950’s. He discovered a strange pattern among his patients — it took them about 21 days to get used to seeing their new face after surgery. Similar it was about a patient who was losing their arm or leg – after an amputation, it took them about 21 days to accept this fact and their uncompleted body.
Maltz wrote about those experiences and said, “These, and many other commonly observed phenomena tend to show that it requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell.”
For a quite long time, the people believed that 21 days are long enough to form a new habit. But in 2009 a new research from the healthy psychology researcher Phillippa Lally at University College London showed that on average, it takes more than two months before a new behaviour becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact. And how long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the response, the person, and the circumstances. In Lally’s study, it took anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for people to form a new habit. (More about this and another experiment here).

Why am I writing about that?

Because I mentioned in the two lasts posts that I’d like to turn meditation and exercising to my habits and I am wondering how long it will take me.

Gretchen Rubin wrote at the end of the year of her Happiness Project that some of her resolutions turned into habits and another haven’t for various reasons. But those that became habits were those which makes her happier. That means she kept making those resolutions which had turned to be good for her in one or another way —for her healthy, for more fun, for better relationships, for more joy in everyday life, etc.

Doing stuff which is good for one is probably the best reason to do something, the best motivation. I am aware of the fact that motivation is not always enough and even if I know that a run in the park for 45min would be better for me than crashing on the sofa, there are days when any thought and knowledge about the advantages of the sport would bring me to put un my running shoes.

What’s next?

Currently, I am exercising twice a week. The resolution for the month is to increase the training up to 3 of 4 per week. Similar to meditation. I know it is good for me, my brain, my health, but sometimes I just don’t want to do it. I know that if I stop to exercising now, I will miss the two days weekly. And I am pretty sure it would be similar to meditation.

About my strategy against my laziness I’d report later, but for now, I’d say I will practice both of that resolution for one month with the ambition to turn them to my habits.

So, let’s see how that is going to work!

Yours, Eva


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