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Breaking Bad Habits in 28 Days

Breaking Bad Habits in 28 Days

    I was watching “The Big C” on Showtime the other night, and one of the characters mentioned off-hand that it takes 28 days to break a bad habit. A quick Google search showed me that this wasn’t just a bit of silver screen writing, but a fairly well-accepted theory.

    Some people argue it’s more like 21 days, or 30; still others say that it takes 30 days to create a pattern and 90 days to create a habit. Obviously, some habits are easier to break than others. For example, if you are both a smoker and a nail biter, it’s probably more feasible to break the nail biting habit in a month, but less reasonable to think that quitting cigs can get done in 30 days or less.

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    But how realistic is it to try and break any habit in 30 days? And where did this idea of habit-busting in under a month come from in the first place?

    In the Beginning

    The 30 day habit-breaking plan has come under many guises over the years and has been backed by many different experts. But most people agree that the genesis of this theory dates back to a 1960 psychology book: Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz. In addition to putting forward the 30-day habit breaking theory, the book also postulated that a person must have an accurate and positive view of his or her self before setting goals; otherwise he or she will get stuck in a continuing pattern of limiting beliefs.

    Getting In the Right Mindset

    Getting ready to break a bad habit is tough, and getting in the right mindset to break a habit in just a month is even tougher.

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    Steve Pavlina puts it best:

    “We often psyche ourselves out of getting started by mentally thinking about the change as something permanent — before we’ve even begun…But what if you thought about making the change only temporarily — say for 30 days — and then you’re free to go back to your old habits? That doesn’t seem so hard anymore. Exercise daily for just 30 days, then quit. Maintain a neatly organized desk for 30 days, then slack off. Read for an hour a day for 30 days, then go back to watching TV.”

    Its important to make sure that when you attempt to break a habit in 30 days, you’re picking a bad habit that you actually engage in on a daily basis. Seems obvious when you think about it, but if you try to break a habit that you don’t do on a daily basis, its a bit harder to gauge your success in a limited 30-day window.

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    Tips and Tricks

    Hiram of Balanced Health Blueprint has a clever trick for tracking your daily progress in your quest to break a bad habit. Take 3 coins (or tokens or buttons, but really, coins are best) and label them 1-30 with a washable magic marker. For every day that passes and you don’t indulge in your bad habit, drop a coin in a jar.

    If you make it to 30 days, buy yourself something small, but symbolic, with the coins to celebrate your triumph. But if you backslide, Hiram says, “Start over. Take your container and hold it up so you can see it clearly. Take a close look at all the coins inside representing your progress. Now dump out all the coins and start over.”

    Conclusion

    You should think of the habit-breaking process like a marathon. Every step you make towards your goal over a 30 day period gets you closer to the finish line.

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    What’s your bad habit? And do you think you could ever break that habit in 30 days? Tell us in the comments below!

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    Tucker Cummings

    Writer and social media professional sharing productivity tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on September 18, 2020

    7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

    7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

    Learning how to get in shape and set goals is important if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle and get closer to your goal weight. While this does require changes to your daily routine, you’ll find that you are able to look and feel better in only two weeks.

    Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to get in shape. Although anyone can cover the basics (eat right and exercise), there are some things that I could only learn through trial and error. Let’s cover some of the most important points for how to get in shape in two weeks.

    1. Exercise Daily

    It is far easier to make exercise a habit if it is a daily one. If you aren’t exercising at all, I recommend starting by exercising a half hour every day. When you only exercise a couple times per week, it is much easier to turn one day off into three days off, a week off, or a month off.

    If you are already used to exercising, switching to three or four times a week to fit your schedule may be preferable, but it is a lot harder to maintain a workout program you don’t do every day.

    Be careful to not repeat the same exercise routine each day. If you do an intense ab workout one day, try switching it up to general cardio the next. You can also squeeze in a day of light walking to break up the intensity.

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    If you’re a morning person, check out these morning exercises that will start your day off right.

    2. Duration Doesn’t Substitute for Intensity

    Once you get into the habit of regular exercise, where do you go if you still aren’t reaching your goals? Most people will solve the problem by exercising for longer periods of time, turning forty-minute workouts into two hour stretches. Not only does this drain your time, but it doesn’t work particularly well.

    One study shows that “exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat”[1].

    This is great news for both your schedule and your levels of motivation. You’ll likely find it much easier to exercise for 30 minutes a day instead of an hour. In those 30 minutes, do your best to up the intensity to your appropriate edge to get the most out of the time.

    3. Acknowledge Your Limits

    Many people get frustrated when they plateau in their weight loss or muscle gaining goals as they’re learning how to get in shape. Everyone has an equilibrium and genetic set point where their body wants to remain. This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your fitness goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you are struggling to lose weight or put on muscle.

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    Acknowledging a set point doesn’t mean giving up, but it does mean realizing the obstacles you face.

    Expect to hit a plateau in your own fitness results[2]. When you expect a plateau, you can manage around it so you can continue your progress at a more realistic rate. When expectations meet reality, you can avoid dietary crashes.

    4. Eat Healthy, Not Just Food That Looks Healthy

    Know what you eat. Don’t fuss over minutia like whether you’re getting enough Omega 3’s or tryptophan, but be aware of the big things. Look at the foods you eat regularly and figure out whether they are healthy or not. Don’t get fooled by the deceptively healthy snacks just pretending to be good for you.

    The basic nutritional advice includes:

    • Eat unprocessed foods
    • Eat more veggies
    • Use meat as a side dish, not a main course
    • Eat whole grains, not refined grains[3]

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    Eat whole grains when you want to learn how to get in shape.

      5. Watch Out for Travel

      Don’t let a four-day holiday interfere with your attempts when you’re learning how to get in shape. I don’t mean that you need to follow your diet and exercise plan without any excursion, but when you are in the first few weeks, still forming habits, be careful that a week long break doesn’t terminate your progress.

      This is also true of schedule changes that leave you suddenly busy or make it difficult to exercise. Have a backup plan so you can be consistent, at least for the first month when you are forming habits.

      If travel is on your schedule and can’t be avoided, make an exercise plan before you go[4], and make sure to pack exercise clothes and an exercise mat as motivation to keep you on track.

      6. Start Slow

      Ever start an exercise plan by running ten miles and then puking your guts out? Maybe you aren’t that extreme, but burnout is common early on when learning how to get in shape. You have a lifetime to be healthy, so don’t try to go from couch potato to athletic superstar in a week.

      If you are starting a running regime, for example, run less than you can to start. Starting strength training? Work with less weight than you could theoretically lift. Increasing intensity and pushing yourself can come later when your body becomes comfortable with regular exercise.

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      7. Be Careful When Choosing a Workout Partner

      Should you have a workout partner? That depends. Workout partners can help you stay motivated and make exercising more fun. But they can also stop you from reaching your goals.

      My suggestion would be to have a workout partner, but when you start to plateau (either in physical ability, weight loss/gain, or overall health) and you haven’t reached your goals, consider mixing things up a bit.

      If you plateau, you may need to make changes to continue improving. In this case it’s important to talk to your workout partner about the changes you want to make, and if they don’t seem motivated to continue, offer a thirty day break where you both try different activities.

      I notice that guys working out together tend to match strength after a brief adjustment phase. Even if both are trying to improve, something seems to stall improvement once they reach a certain point. I found that I was able to lift as much as 30-50% more after taking a short break from my regular workout partner.

      Final Thoughts

      Learning how to get in shape in as little as two weeks sounds daunting, but if you’re motivated and have the time and energy to devote to it, it’s certainly possible.

      Find an exercise routine that works for you, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and watch as the transformation begins.

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      Featured photo credit: Alexander Redl via unsplash.com

      Reference

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