In a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, Phillippa Lally (a health psychology researcher) and her team decided to research how long it actually takes to form a habit. The study examined 96 people for a 12 week period, tracking each person on their chosen new habit. Every day the subjects would report whether or not they followed the new behavior and how automatic the behavior felt.
Their results showed that Instagram is lying to us (shocker!). You may have heard or seen Instagram posts that talk about how it takes 21 days to form a new habit. According to the study previously mentioned, “On average it takes more than two months before a new behavior becomes automatic”.
What does this research tell us? Well…it is quite simple really. It says:
1) Don’t wait to start,
2) Embrace failure, and
3) Stay patient while trusting the journey.
Forming new habits that will make us better athletes and more importantly better people, should not be left to a calendar date or a time of year. ‘Today’, the present moment, should be the most appropriate time to begin making these important changes. The here and now is the only time we have to act and effect change, because we can’t change the past and thinking about the future won’t change its outcome either.
When trying to form a new habit, it is to be expected that we will forget, we will revert to an old habit, or that we will have ‘off’ days, but it is ok. We should not get down on ourselves. An interesting note that researchers made, arising from the above study, was that“…missing one opportunity to perform the behavior did not materially affect the habit formation process”. In other words, messing up every now and again did not have an adverse impact on the end results of the study. The conclusion being that building better habits is not an all or nothing process. HOW GREAT IS THAT TO HEAR?
Stay Patient & Trust the Journey
Change takes time. Unfortunately we live in a society where time is money and everything is perceived as instant. We want results right away. That said, just because we live in the fast lane doesn’t mean that the results we want to see will take place in the timely manner we would like. Our sport reminds us that sometimes we need to hurt in order to grow; that we must lose in order to gain and that, sometimes, certain lessons are learned only through pain.
Working on your running form, being more consciously grateful for our blessings, stretching before or after workouts, taking time to center yourself by meditating 5 minutes a day are just a few examples of habits that we can incorporate into our daily lives. We have to be aware that embarking on the journey is half the battle. Stay patient, trust the journey. Whether it takes you two months or eight months to implement a new habit in your life to enable you to enjoy a better quality of life, do it! Stick with it because a river cuts through a rock not because of its power, but due to its persistence.
Happy habit forming journey!
Other Suggested Reading from Run South Florida Magazine: