As the end of January is fast approaching, I’m thinking of everyone who started the year off a few weeks ago with New Year’s resolutions to improve their health and fitness. The gym was packed at the beginning of January, like it is every year, with people intent on making a change for the better. By the end of January the numbers dwindle…it happens every year! People lose their enthusiasm and commitment.
Why? Outside of the normal reasons we all have (life is busy, it’s cold outside, the car wouldn’t start, my dog ate my protein bar), I think a big reason people fall off their New Year’s resolutions that have really good intentions is they haven’t given it time to form a strong, new habit. More importantly, many people have a misconception about how long it TAKES to form new habits. They get a couple of weeks into it, don’t feel like it has become “automatic” yet (in other words, it’s still hard!), so they give in to falling off and quitting.
Did you know it takes more than 2 months for a new behavior to turn into an automatic habit? Apparently, according to research, it can take less time (21 days) for a simple habit to form (like drinking a glass of water each morning). But for more complex habits it takes much longer. A new exercise or diet plan is a very complex habit to try to form!
In fact, studies indicate complex habits can take up to 254 days (over 8 months!!) to become automatic behaviors. Holy cow, that’s a long time! That’s why I recommend my health coaching clients sign up with me for 6 months. It really does take that long!
But here’s the good news: the same studies find that messing up here and there didn’t impact the process. In other words, if you cheat on your nutrition plan and have a doughnut, or skip leg day once or twice in your exercise program, you aren’t necessarily going to screw up your entire plan and formation of the new habit. But you have to get back on the horse, so to speak, and get back to your plan.
So here are my takeaways: 1.) It takes a long time to truly form new habits. We all need to stick to it and work our plan, even if we screw up here and there and don’t do what we were supposed to do, WE JUST NEED TO GET BACK TO OUR PLAN! 2.) When we do screw up, don’t beat ourselves up about it and get down. It isn’t necessarily going to ruin our good intentions and all the work we did up to that point. Let it go, move on, and get back to doing what we wanted to do.
Today is a new day. If you started off the year with great intentions and have fallen off, you get to start over now! Get back on that plan, and understand it is going to take time for it to become habit, and therefore easier to perform.
In Good Health!