It’s the start of a new year, and lots of people are talking about habits – quitting habits and starting habits. The resolutions to quit smoking or to start exercising, to quit eating junk food or to start eating healthier, to stop watching so much television or to start watching the shows you enjoy…the resolutions that we stick to for a week or so, and then we’re right back to our old, bad habits. It turns out that it takes more than a week or two for new habits to develop. In addition, people tend to have unrealistic expectations, wanting instant gratification when it would be much more sustainable to set smaller goals, leading up to hopefully life-long change for the better.
Habits, whether good or bad, take time to form. Experts agree that a good length of time to give habits to develop is one month. If you can get through the rigors of trying something new for 30 days, you stand a very good chance of gaining a habit to which you can stick.
Try to set reasonable goals for yourself. Instead of trying to lose 50 pounds in three months, shoot for losing 1.5-2 pounds per week until you reach your goal of losing 50 pounds. Yes, it will take a lot longer than you would like, but during that time you will be changing your lifestyle which will help you maintain the weight loss forever; you will be forming new habits that will change your life.
Finally, don’t try to change all of your habits at once. Choose one or two things to work on at a time, and though it sounds cliché, take baby steps. If you aren’t very active now and your goal is to run a marathon, don’t start trying to run several miles at a time. Start by walking 20-30 minutes per day and work your way up from there. Your chances of sticking to your plan and ultimately reaching your goal are far better than if you run for a couple of days and spend a couple of months recovering.