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The Real Number of Days it Takes to Create a Habit

Is there any word other than ‘habit’ that makes you shudder? It’s like ‘healthy lifestyle’ and ‘discipline’ and ‘politics.’

Words that make you instantly realize either all the things you’re doing wrong – or NOT doing at all – or all the things you can’t stand to think about (politics falls into that category).

But habit has a whole heck of a lot to do with losing weight and, ahem, creating a ‘healthy lifestyle.’

Sometimes habit is the only reason I get up and work out. It’s just what happens at around 7:00 in the morning, like brushing my teeth after breakfast.

But how do habits happen? And is it true that it takes 3 weeks to create a habit – which is what I’ve always heard?

Do you ever feel like creating healthier habits (working out, eating better, etc.) is a lot of harder than it should be?

There’s a reason for that and this news is going to make you feel better about yourself, I promise. This info is going to make creating new habits a whole lot easier. 

Your Mindset

‘Mindset’ is another word that kind of makes me wince a little but, in a nutshell, habits come down to one thing.

Your MINDSET

Once you get your mindset right, everything else begins to fall into place. 

Fun fact: Did you know that having a positive mindset can actually help you make healthier choices and actually live longer? 

Okay, that was more just like a semi-interesting fact, not that much fun.

But here’s an even better fact: You don’t have to be born with a positive mindset. It’s something you can create and strengthen over time. 

I think we’ve all struggled with mastering new habits – things like meal prep (and then actually eating the meals we prepped), sticking with a new workout plan, getting up earlier, reading more, etc.

I know that when I’m trying to get back into my habit of using my food journal after every meal, I’ll do great for a few days (or even a few weeks) and then hello – I’m off the wagon and, worse, it’s going to Disneyworld without me.

All of a sudden I forget or totally blow it off. Maybe it’s because I’m busy, tired, or who knows what. Anyway, I start slipping.

And then I start to feel a little guilty…  then I get angry or upset with myself … and then I end up saying “I’ll just start again tomorrow.” I love the ‘tomorrow’ excuse. It’s so handy, isn’t it?

Well, have you ever heard the saying that it only takes three weeks to make a new habit? I am not sure who came up with that number, but guess what? It’s wrong. I think we’ve all figured that one out the hard way.

It actually takes NEARLY THREE TIMES LONGER than that – depending on the person, the habit, and the situation. 

A study from Australia found that on average, it takes about 66 days to develop a new habit.

This news actually makes me feel a lot better, and I hope it does you, too. It takes the pressure off being “perfect” right out of the gate.

Creating a new habit can be hard, and you can end up with unrealistic expectations – like having it mastered in just a few weeks. 

Good news! The study also showed that missing a day or two doesn’t mean you’re back to square one in creating the habit. 

Be prepared to slip up now and then, and when you do, get yourself back on track as soon as possible. Eventually, it WILL become easier, especially when you start to see the results of all your effort.

Lasting changes take time – so whenever possible, make sure you enjoy the ride. It’ll increase the likelihood you’ll own that new habit.

Tips for Habit-Making

I can’t take the actual work you have to do to create a habit away from you, but wouldn’t it be nice if I could?

Instead, it takes some good-old-fashioned practice to make this happen so here are some tips that you probably already know, but may need a little reminder:

  • Do your workouts at the same time each day  – An exercise habit becomes a lot easier when your body just knows it’s workout time.
  • Pick one thing about your diet and just work on that – One thing we do that can sabotage us is trying to change every damn thing at once. Instead, pick a meal and just work on that. Let’s say you pick breakfast…Do some research on healthy breakfasts. Find recipes you know you can make. Pick one and make it every day for a week, then pick another one for the next week, etc.
  • Use your smartphone – Your smartphone is annoying – at least mine is because it’s constantly there taunting me, begging me to pick it up and check my Facebook. But it’s good for creating habits. Set alarms to remind you to stand up and move around or to keep a food journal for your meals. There are also tons of great apps to help you along with that too.

Most of all, when you are watching that healthy habit wagon leave you in the dust after a slip-up, chase after it. You want to get to Disneyworld, right?

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Need Some Stress Management? It’s Time to Take a Walk

If you’re stressed out, there’s a very good chance you’re a living, breathing human being.

I emphasize the ‘human’ part of the equation because I see my cats and they are so not stressed that they actually sleep for 23 hours a day.

There are all kinds of stress and all kinds of ways to deal with stress, but it doesn’t have to be terribly complicated.

In fact, you have one of the simplest tools there is to get your stress levels down:

Your feet.

And some shoes.

A lot of us walk, some of us walk for exercise and others of us walk because if we don’t, the dog will eat everything in the house…except the cat, of whom the dog is terrified.

Walking has a lot of great benefits, one of the best ones being stress relief.

Walking and Stress Relief

I’ve done some research and here’s what I’ve learned about walking, exercise and stress relief:

  • A 10-minute walk can relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Exercise can help your brain cope better with stress
  • Walking can loosen up your muscles – Are your shoulders up around your ears? Yep, you need a walk
  • Walking gets you out of your own head – If you’re an overthinker, walking is the perfect thing for you. It gets you out into the world instead of stuck in the gerbil-wheel of your own thoughts
  • Walking gives you a little me-time – Sometimes when the dog is up my butt and the cat is stalking the dog and the other cat is crying because he gets hungry in between bites and my husband is playing on of his video game on 11, I go for a walk. It helps me not kill anyone
  • Walking lets you work out your problems – As a writer, it’s a constant battle to stay focused and write stuff that doesn’t suck. Walking helps when I’m stuck or even when I just need to solve a problem. Something about the rhythmic movement of your legs sets your mind free and lets you think more clearly
  • Walking makes your dog nicer – It makes your dog tired and a tired dog is a good dog. Nothing works on my cats, though

How to Walk for Stress Relief

  1. Get stressed out – If you need help with that, I want to be you.
  2. Realize you’re stressed out – Signs you’re stressed: You’re grinding your teeth, your neck is tight, your shoulders are stiff and you realize you just yelled at the driver in front of you for coming to a complete stop at a stop sign because you’re in a hurry, dang it.
  3. Take a walk – An outside walk is a great choice, but indoor works just fine if you can’t get out. Walk around the house, the treadmill, the office, the parking lot, the mall, march in place…just walk.
  4. Try to go for at least 10 minutes – The first 5 minutes, your mind will still be obsessing. After that, it starts to calm down and you feel better.
  5. Breathe and pay attention to what’s around you – Maybe you’ll see something pretty. Maybe not. The point is to be in the moment and let your thoughts sort of unravel. It’ll be hard at first, because you’ll end up chewing on some problem – What to make for dinner or that email you forgot to send. But, after a bit, you’ll drift a little and that’s where the relief happens.

Try to do this at least once a day and keep track of your stress walks with this Tracking Chart. It’s very simple – You’ll answer 3 questions: Did I Walk? How long did I walk? Did I feel better after my walk? If you didn’t feel better, you have my permission to email me and yell at me in ALL CAPS.

 

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Just For Fun – How to Do Yoga With Your Cat

Equipment:  A yoga mat, a towel, a bottle of water, one sheet of aluminum foil squished into a ball, fire extinguisher (optional)

How To:

  1. Spread your mat on the floor and set the mood by putting on soothing music, dimming the lights and lighting a candle.

2. Remove the cat from the mat and come to the front, standing in Mountain Pose. Hold one ball of aluminum foil in the right hand. You’ll use this later.

3. Close your eyes, breathing deeply.  Be aware of your surroundings and how your body feels.

4.  Inhale deeply, pausing to hold your breath as you notice the faint stench of burning hair.

5. Turn around, keeping your body in alignment, and notice that your cat is holding his paw over the open candle flame.

6. Quickly put out your cat’s paw (use fire extinguisher here if curtains catch fire), blow out the candle and resume your practice, keeping your breaths shallow as the odor of burnt hair diffuses.

7. Remove the cat from the mat.

8. Step to the front, noticing your cat is now sprawled lengthwise across it, licking his slightly singed paw.

9. Forget standing on the mat.

10. Sweep the arms up as you inhale, still holding the aluminum foil in your right hand, and fall forward, stopping halfway down to avoid hitting your cat, who has materialized directly beneath you.

11. Hang down, only going as low as your cat allows.

12. Enjoy the sensation of stretch and of your cat chewing on your hair.

13. Come back up, sweeping the arms up and simultaneously tossing the aluminum foil ball across the room.

14. As the cat chases it, quickly reclaim your mat, lying down on it before your cat makes it back across the room.

15. Push up into downward dog, feeling the stretch in your shoulders and hips. Enjoy the scent of cat breath and the sensation of whiskers as your cat, once again, sits directly under your face.

16. As the cat sprawls across your mat beneath you, walk your hands and feet to the side and off the mat, enjoying the feel of the cold, hard floor beneath your hands and feet.

17. Breathe.

18. Come down onto your stomach and rest your cheek against the floor, ignoring the cat hair sticking to your cheek.  Notice that your cat, though only 10 pounds, has expanded to take up your entire mat.

19. Come up into a pushup position and hold as your cat jumps onto your back.  Feel the cat-body connection as his soft, suddenly heavy body collapses onto yours.

20. As your arms give out, gently collapse to the floor and turn your head to the side.  Exhale, blowing a stray ball of cat fur out of your face. Enjoy the delicate slurping sounds of the cat giving itself a bath on your back.

21. When your cat is finished with his bath, gently roll over, ignoring the outraged mewling as your cat is dislodged.

22. Move the cat off the mat.

23. Roll over, relaxing the entire body and ignoring the 10-lb mass that jumps onto your chest, face inches from yours as the cat attempts to steal your soul.

24. Savor the moment until you can no longer breathe.

25. Dislodge the cat and move through the rest of the day with a sense of peace and harmony.

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