Forming New Habits

Jen Noonan, MA, LPC, CACIII

Habits are often categorized as good or bad. “I work out 5 days a week” is considered by most to be a “good” habit. “I yell at every driver that doesn’t know how to drive” is considered by most to be a “bad” habit. However, what about something like cruising Facebook for 2 hours each day? Some would consider this a “bad” time wasting habit, while others would consider staying in touch with others a “good” habit.

I would like to propose removing all judgments defining good and bad behaviors. The more pressing concern is how we would like to improve our lives. Take a moment to think about how you might not be living up to your full potential, and how you might make some progress toward it. Remove the negative judgments about yourself and others, as this creates negative energy, and slows your progress down.

We have all heard about the “21 days to form a new habit” rule. It has been explained on many websites and in countless best selling books. How true is this rule? It depends on the source. Some believe in it faithfully, while others are convinced it takes a shorter or longer time.

What if there was some truth to this rule? I recommend putting it to the test. Think about what you might like to accomplish on a daily, every other day, weekly, monthly, etc basis. The behavior that you wish to improve upon must be concrete. Let’s take meditation as an example. Don’t simply state “I want to meditate on a regular basis,” and hope that it will happen. In order to become an established practice, you need to be more concrete. You also need to know why it’s important. Your intention might look something like this:

  • I will establish a daily meditation practice to slow down my thinking, and create more concentration. It is important to decrease my anxiety level and focus on one thing at a time.
  • I will set my alarm for 5:45am and begin practicing by 6:00am.
  • I will practice in a quiet place where I won’t be disturbed.
  • I will practice for 10 minutes for the first week, 20 for the second, and 30 for the third.
  • I will practice for a total of 21 days and will re-evaluate at the end of this time.

If the habit you chose cannot be performed on a daily basis, make the deadline longer than 21 days. Try a few months, or 6 months. The goal is to not give up on it too soon, as habits cannot be properly formed if you do. If you don’t follow through with your intention, the good news is that the next time you attempt the habit, you will more than likely succeed for a longer period of time!

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