– Kathryn Hodgson RMT –
We are wonderful creatures of habit. Of course, there are many conscious choices we make throughout our daily lives, but if we stop and examine our behaviours, most of our movements and decisions are actually habits that we do without any serious amount of thinking. Brushing our teeth, tying shoe laces, driving the car, riding a bike, turning on the coffee machine, putting the kettle on. For the most part, we just go through the motions of doing these things. So how is it, when it comes to creating healthy habits we sometimes have a hard time?
The process of reinforcing a specific behaviour such that it becomes a habit is not as long and arduous as you may think. However, it does take conscious effort or constant and consistent reminding for the first little while. How long is a “little while”? Well, it can vary amongst individuals but in general, repetition of a specific behaviour over a period of 30 days can help to ingrain the behaviour on our neural pathways, thus creating a habit.
Neural pathways…what? Our brain and nervous system are amazingly complex and delightfully simple all at the same time. Creating neural pathways is rather like forging a new trail through a forest; the more the trail is walked, the easier the trail becomes to walk. It’s similar in our bodies; the more we consistently do something in the same manner, the clearer that neural pathway becomes and the easier the action or behaviour becomes. Take, for example, learning to write the letters of the alphabet; it became easier the more we did it and now we do it without thinking! So, just like creating a trail in a forest, we need to do the same with any behaviour we want to have as a habit: We need to do the behaviour often enough so that it becomes ingrained as a neural pathway.
We are always reading or hearing about things that are scientifically proven to be good for us to do. Exercise more, drink more water, eat more greens, sleep more, stretch our muscles, strengthen our muscles, etc. Oh yes, we are smart people and we know about these things but how do we turn them into habits? Well, talking about creating a trail just won’t get the trail done…you need to get out there and do it. It’s time to walk the walk!
Take any ONE THING that you’d like to have as a habit of health. Say it’s drinking more water. Set the goal by deciding how much and when (e.g., 3 more glasses per day, one before each main meal). Then consciously every day for 30 days drink a glass of water before each meal. By the end of 30 days, my bet is that you’ll be reaching for the glass without even thinking about it.
And yes, just one thing at a time: It will allow you to focus your energy on forging that one neural pathway until you have formed the habit of health. Then next month, choose to create a new pathway towards a habit of health. Only 30 days of conscious effort towards healthy habits from the inside out…you can do it!!