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Welcome to my blog. The purpose here is simple: to chronicle my thoughts, actions, plans, and goals in getting healthy in the year 2012. Feel free to look around and offer encouragement or suggestions.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Habit Forming

Habit 
noun-
a : a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition or physiologic exposure that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance
b : an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary <got up early from force of habit>

Merriam-Webster, surprisingly, has several other definitions for a habit, but I only found this one relevant to my purposes. There are people who live their lives with the majority of their day already established for them by the habits they keep. They wake at the same time, eat at the same places, take the same route to and from work every day. I am not one of these people. I am distressingly non-habitual. So as with anything else that I'm not sure how to do, I did a little research. I wanted to know the best way to begin to form a habit and how long they take before they become involuntary. So I Googled. And Google was good. 

Most information that I found was related to how long habits take to form. The general consensus is that it takes 21 days. This comes from a publication written by a surgeon in the 60's named Dr. Maltz who noticed it took amputees 21 days to stop complaining of phantom pains in their nonexistent limbs. He eventually expanded his theory to include most major life changes. Surprisingly, there didn't appear to be a whole lot done in the area of habit formation since then. A study in London performed in 2009, however, found that the length of time it takes to form a habit corresponds to the difficulty and/or complexity of that habit. The study found that, on average, it took 66 days to effectively perform a task without thinking about it. They found some habits, like drinking water with every meal, took as little as 18 days whereas more trying activities, like doing 50 sit-ups daily, could take as many as 200 days before becoming second nature. They also found that a small group of participants were habit resistant, meaning they never really got to a point, even with daily repetition, at which the behavior didn't require thought and effort. 

The information on how to go about forming habits was much more varied. It ranged anywhere from "just do it" to an itemized list of step by step goals. I've chosen to share(and abide by) my favorites. Before attempting to develop your changing habit, have a plan and make a commitment. Tell yourself you're going to do it, and have a plan to back that up. It just so happens, I do have a plan, which I will share later, so I feel solid on my ability to complete this step. It is also recommended to change your habit as publicly as possible. This way, when you fall off the wagon,  you don't only have to answer to yourself, but to your network of supporters as well. Public blog: check. Go slowly. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking change has to be an all or nothing deal. I happen to believe in baby steps. One website I visited called them half-habits, baby steps in the direction of your goal. My plan incorporates change every 3 months to keep building my momentum. Reward yourself for success. Positive reinforcement is a powerful thing. I haven't figured out my reward system yet, but I will. And finally, be positive. When it comes right down to it the outcome is usually already set before we begin a project because or mindset about it is set. 

I can do it and I refuse to doubt myself.

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