It’s a common myth that forming a habit takes 21 days. Where did this come from? Back in 1950s, a plastic surgeon called Maxwell Maltz noticed it would take his patients this long to adjust to their new physique. Maltz published his thoughts and after years of discussion, it’s now believed that within 21 days, you’ll have formed a brand new habit.
I’m not convinced that it’s entirely accurate, but after seeing various 30 and 365 day challenges on social media, I decided to put the 21 day myth to the test by making 12 lifestyle changes and seeing how well they stuck and lasted.
The resultls? Surprisingly better than anticipated.
1) Use social media less
This was by far the most difficult but probably the best challenge I set myself. Starting off by deleting Messenger and Facebook, I still don’t use my laptop or phone near as much as I normally would which is so refreshing.
2) Three meals a day
Any uni student knows how hard it is to stick with this purely due to the time and effort it takes to make anything worth eating. Being home during the summer made this relatively easy to keep this up, but being back in term time now goes to show that not even four months can make a difference.
3) Exercise for a minimum of 21 minutes
It’s so easy to find a little bit of time in your day to put aside for some exercise, there’s really no excuse not to. I stopped driving to work and walked instead as well as making use of the gym in evenings and whilst I may have lapsed a bit at uni, this really isn’t hard to upkeep.
4) Be a ‘yes man’
One thing I learnt from my first year was that saying yes definitely gives you some of the best memories. If I hadn’t have said yes to doing a radio show for example, this blog wouldn’t exist. Always be the yes man.
5) Read at least ten pages of a book daily
It’s been an embarrassingly long time since I’ve read for leisure. So I got onto Amazon, bought “The Undercover Economist” and “23 Things They Don’t Tell You about Capitalism” (your usual light reads). This has lasted far longer than the 21 days.
6) Drink two litres of water a day
This wasn’t exactly difficult to stick by, but I did have to keep reminding myself throughout the day.
7) Don’t buy things you don’t need
One of my worst skills is spending money on things I don’t need at all, whether that be another pair of jeans to add the collection or convincing myself I need that Starbucks after work. In fact, I am so bad with money I’m still in a massive overdraft from first year. After spending 21 days refraining from unnecessary purchases, I have actually managed to steer clear of them to date which my bank account is definitely grateful for.
8) A cup of milk a day
In an attempt to be healthier, did this last longer than a week? Nope.
9) Have at least 5-a-day
Again, this was a go at being a bit healthier, and I actually have managed to stick with this to date.
10) Take a photo a day
Inspired by someone on Facebook, this one’s cool in the sense that you end up with a bank of photos reflecting every day.
11) Laughter/positive thought journal
I came across this idea when having a quick Google of ideas and would definitely recommend it. It is so quick and easy to do, and being able to pull out those positives out of an awful day is always a good feeling.
12) No chocolate
Anyone who knows me knows how much I love chocolate and my opinion of fruit-based desserts so this one was testing. In all honesty, this challenge didn’t go very well at all as I caved around half-way through.
Making these 12 changes for 21 days didn’t form new habits in all cases. Regardless of that though, it did make me realise how easy it is to make small changes if you put the effort in and it really isn’t that difficult once you get going.