Do you bite your nails? Do you always put your right sock on before your left one? Can you ever remember a time when you didn’t do these things? For a lot of people, trying to pinpoint exactly when a habit began is almost impossible. This has got people thinking. How many times do you have to constantly repeat an action before it becomes completely natural?
I have frequently stressed the importance of trying to overcome bad habits and replace them with better ones. This way living healthily becomes a way of life and not a constant battle. So if you find that when you get in from work that you go straight for some chocolate, that is probably a bad habit. If, however, you head straight for the treadmill after a day’s work, the chances are that is going to be a fairly good habit to get into. You get the idea.
21 days is something that you hear a lot. Repeat an action for 21 days in a row and it will become a habit. Equally, stop doing it for 21 days and the reverse is true. But is that the case? Firstly, does 21 not seem a convenient number? I mean, you can see why it stuck. 21 is an easy number to remember, it sticks in the mind and you aren’t likely to forget it. Think about the fact that 21 days is still just three weeks. Three weeks! Even before you delve deeper into the research it is difficult to imagine that by doing for something for just three weeks that you will have successfully fooled your body into doing it every single day without even thinking about it!
And so research has continued. Leading universities across the globe are constantly conducting experiments to try and provide a definitive number. But think about this for a moment? Let’s say you come to conclusion, let’s say 66 days, which is the number that University College London suggested. Does that mean that you can introduce some sort of a habit, be it going for a run every day or just clapping every time you get up, for just 65 days, it won’t stick? Then if you say 65 is okay, what about 64? 63? 62? Hopefully you see my point.
Human beings love the idea of synthesising all problems down to just one number. It makes sense to us. Everything is far easier to understand if it is just one number. Just remember to do something for a little over two months and you don’t have to worry about it again for the rest of your life.
Far from me to suggest that all academics who invest years of time and university pounds/dollars into this are wasting their time though. I’m just making the point that I can’t sit here and provide you with the magic number that you are looking for. In fact, when you look closer at the same study that gave us 66 days, you find that this is based on results that ranged from 18 to 254 days!
You won’t remember when the majority of your habits began. And the majority of them will probably stay with you until the day you die. But people stop biting their nails, people stop picking their nose and people can stop routinely succumbing to a poor regime of exercise and nutrition. Your habits form a massive part of your individual personality. You wouldn’t want to get rid of them all. But a little bit of fine-tuning here and there will make all the difference in the future.
If you’re thinking of taking up the gym as a new hobby and you’re interested in using a personal trainer to give you a push in the right direction, talk to Ollie Lawrence Personal Trainers in Manchester today to find out what we can do for you.