21 days. The idea that this is the time it takes to form a new habit stems from the 1960s. It makes healthy-habit-forming sound easy. Though if it was, everyone would stick to their resolutions.
A study from the University College London found it actually takes an average of 66 days to form a habit, and more complex or demanding habits can take as long as 254 days.
Many people start a new goal full of enthusiasm. But if they listen to the myth, at the 21-day mark they may hit a wall, still feeling their new habit is a slog most days. Often, this “failure” discourages them from building new habits in the future. And yet, the benefits of a lifelong habit far outweigh the effort it takes to get there.
The Benefits of Healthy Habits
We set a goal for a specific reason and keep it once we see the broader benefits. For example, you may take up running because you want to lose a few pounds. As your overall fitness improves, you build greater self-esteem and may even achieve a new personal goal of running a 10k.
Benefits of healthy habits can include:
- Reduced stress and an enhanced mood through released endorphins
- Improved weight management
- Increased healthy heart function to support longevity
- More energy
- Healthy immune system support
Start Your Healthy Habit Today
Upping your routine takes more than hopping out of bed and saying, “I’m going to start yoga today!” But with a little preparation, your new habit will soon become a natural part of your every day.
Make a Plan
Whether you love a spreadsheet or prefer to journal, create a visual plan and stay with it. Each day, or even once or twice a week, take time to check off the days you’ve practiced your new habit. You may not be perfect at first—that’s totally expected. Steer away from any guilty thoughts and focus on what you’ve accomplished and how it made you feel. Small steps still move you in the right direction.
Small Steps, Not Large Leaps
Speaking of small steps, a habit is a marathon, not a sprint—don’t expect to go from couch potato to pounding the pavement or from living off coffee to going cold turkey in a day. Start slow—work out for 30 minutes three times a week and build up from there. Stop drinking caffeine after 4:00 p.m., then walk it back to 3:00 pm, then 2:00 pm, etc. Smaller steps will get you to your goal more effectively than giant leaps—and you’ll avoid the dreaded burnout.
Be Accountable, but Kind
When you commit to a habit, hold yourself accountable—but do so with kindness. Don’t beat yourself up if you slip—learn from it and start again. (Remember, it can take almost a year for a new habit to fully form).
No one’s an island. Tell your friends, family, and work colleagues what you’re doing and why, and ask for their support—you can find strength everywhere you turn.
Never underestimate the power of a reward. Remember the stickers we received at the dentist as children? While the prize may vary, the sentiment remains the same: do a difficult thing and get something nice in return. Link a grand reward to your habit (lose 20 pounds and splurge on that new dress), or—small and not related at all—bring lunch from home all week and treat yourself to a boba tea on Friday.
5 Healthy Habits You Can Begin Right Now
You’re ready and raring to go—what new habit will you achieve? Here are a few ideas to get started:
Drink More Water
Almost 80 per cent of Australians suffer dehydration. Drinking enough water can lead to more energy, better skin, and a lower risk of illness. Set a hydration goal to nourish your body. Experts recommend two litres of water a day—and if water isn’t your thing, spruce it up with some fresh-cut fruit or sugar-free flavouring.
Ten minutes of meditation a day helps improve focus, clear your mind, and boost productivity. If you’re not sure where to start, plenty of meditation apps and resources are available online.
Introduce a Probiotic
Show your body a little TLC by introducing a probiotic to your daily routine. You’ll be amazed at how energised you feel when your insides are happy.
A digital detox—switching off all tech devices—reduces stress, improves your sleep habits, and supports mental health. Commit to no screen time after 7:00 p.m. (or even brave a weekend blackout) to allow your mind time to switch off and wind down.
Whether you count steps or minutes, simply start moving. Only ten minutes of activity a day can kickstart endorphins and get your heart pumping. Dance, walk, skip, or cycle—it doesn’t matter what you do, so long as you move.
Even one small habit can be life changing. Seize your goals today—you’ve got this!