A habit is a behavior that is triggered automatically without giving it much thought. For instance, you get in the car and fasten your seat belt, brush your teeth before you go to sleep at night, or you make your bed first thing in the morning after waking. You may have heard that it takes 21 days to form a habit. But in truth, there is no clear-cut length of time, and it could be different for everyone. Not all habits are healthy habits. So how do you know when a habit is healthy?
Beneficial in the Long Run
A habit should be beneficial in the long run before it can be considered healthy. Many things we do that gratify our desires in the short run turn out to be disastrous in the long run. For example, smoking may appear to calm nerves in the short run. However, it affects the lungs and other parts of the body eventually. It can also have adverse effects on people who are not smoking but inhale secondhand smoke.
If a habit cannot add to your health in the long run, you shouldn't let the short-term benefits blindfold you.
Beneficial to Your Physical and Mental Health
Consider how your actions affect both your physical and mental health. If a habit affects your mental health negatively, it will eventually take its toll on your physical health and vice versa. Mothers are notorious for this. Sometimes they will try and be everything to everyone around them at the sacrifice of their own well-being. We should all be looking out for other people, but we also need to care for ourselves. It is not selfish to spend a few quiet minutes alone each day. Spending 30 to 60 minutes working out or meditating each day should not be considered a luxury; it should be a necessity. This is one habit that will benefit you physically and mentally and benefit those around you. When you feel better, you can serve others better. It doesn't help anyone if you are there in body but not in mind. So get in the habit of keeping a bit of time aside for yourself each day, whether you are a mom running around with kids or the CEO of a large company.
A Realistic Timeline
Some people can create habits within a few weeks, but others need a few months before a habit takes hold. Don't pressure yourself to meet a specific deadline. Enjoy the process of forming habits. If you are trying to create a fitness habit, don't give up because you pass day 30 and still force yourself to make it happen. Be proud of each time you get that workout in and keep going. Before you know it, it will feel better to be doing your exercise than not.
When trying to eat healthier, don't suddenly ditch everything you enjoy. It will make you feel deprived, and chances are you may not last very long. Instead, make your habit to change one thing each week about how you eat or one thing, such as sugar, that you will give up or find a healthier substitute for. You will soon start seeing benefits, and since you are building over time, you will be strengthening your habit of healthier eating without the feeling of something being taken away.
Did you know that writing something down reinforces it in our brains? Grab yourself a small journal, and each night when you shut down the devices for the night, spend a few minutes writing about your successes and things you are grateful for. They don't have to be long written entries. You can use bullet points, write in paragraphs, or you can write yourself an affirmation or quote to keep you motivated. It's your journal; you can do whatever you like. And knowing you will be accountable to your journal at the end of the day may help you in the process of forming your habits.
Water, Water, Water
Did we say water? Believe it or not, most people don't drink water until they are already dehydrated. Staying properly hydrated is good for your mental clarity, metabolism, and skin. Not to mention it keeps your internal systems functioning. Get yourself a reusable 28-32 oz bottle and drink at least one or two a day. Before you know it, you won't even have to think about it anymore; it will be a habit to grab that water bottle.
No information on forming healthy habits would be complete without mentioning sleep. Shoot for what you can get; they say 8-9 hours is optimal, but also try to keep your sleeping patterns regular, opting to turn in and wake up at the same time each day. This will help establish a healthy sleeping pattern.
Good luck forming those healthy habits. Remember to take it one step, one day at a time. We live in a busy world, give yourself a break and when you slip up, regain your footing and press on. Before you know it, what you once said you'd like to do will be the things that are second nature.