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Research shows that it takes twenty-one days to form a new habit. Three weeks of doing the same thing, every day without fail, until it becomes natural and second nature. Only three weeks, doesn’t seem too terrible, right? Healthy habits have never come easily for me.
I wish I were one of those people who could be consistent without external accountability and could decide to incorporate something into my schedule and easily slip into the new routine. In middle and high school, I struggled to consistently practice my clarinet and piano. In college, I’ve continued to lack consistent studying and tend to rely on cramming the night before.
Something always gets in my way.
Whether it’s my depression keeping me in bed, or my insistence that “I just don’t have time,” my attempts at developing healthy habits and incorporating them into my life, fall flat. I struggle to implement self-care and other healthy habits into my life, mostly because I don’t prioritize myself and my health.
It is crucial to prioritize yourself above all else.
Your health, your recovery, and your well-being are without a doubt more important than your education, your job, your friends, and even your family. When developing a habit to further your recovery or your overall health, don’t be afraid to put yourself first and everything else second.
It’s important not to jump into deep water right away. Personally, I tend to set unrealistic expectations of myself, and when I am not able to meet them, I simply quit. I’ve found that I need to get my feet wet and slowly wade into the water before I can swim in the deep end.
I’ve found when trying to develop a new habit, it’s important to take it little by little.
For example, if you’re trying to start a habit of journaling every day, set a goal of journaling for five minutes a day for the first week. Or start even smaller, with a goal of five minutes of journaling every other day.
Often I’ve failed to develop healthy habits simply because they were just another item on my to-do list. Without a deadline or external accountability, things like journaling and yoga get pushed out of my life until I have time (and then I end up never having time). When first developing a habit, it’s important to give it a spot on your schedule when you will have the least number of obstacles to accomplishing it.
If you’re trying to develop a habit of journaling, think about when you’re most likely to have the time and energy in your day and schedule it at that time. Not a morning person and tend to hit snooze until the last possible minute? You probably shouldn’t schedule journaling just after you wake up. Tend to be exhausted and mindlessly watch Netflix at the end of the day? Avoid scheduling it right before bed.
Pick a time of day when you’re at your best and schedule journaling then. Put it on your calendar and/or in your phone (I do both) and keep it as an immovable meeting with yourself. Don’t reschedule it for anything.
Accountability is also imperative when forming a new habit.
Tell a friend or family member what you’re trying to incorporate into your life and ask them to check in with you about it. Better yet, ask if he or she would like to do it with you.
During a particularly bad depressive season in my life, a friend of mine held me accountable to getting out of the house once a day. Sometimes, this involved her texting me at the end of the day and asking me what I did, and other times, the two of us would run errands together. Last month, we talked about accountability here at Libero Network, so check out some of those articles if you need some tips with this.
Finally, be compassionate with yourself.
Remember that neglecting your habit for one day is not the end of the world. Forgetting does not make you a bad person. Starting something new is difficult for everyone, even more so for those of us who struggle with depression, anxiety, or any other form of mental illness.
Allow yourself grace to struggle and be a beginner. You aren’t a failure if developing a new habit is hard.
Keep in mind your motives for developing a new habit.
Remember that you are starting something new for you, for your recovery, and for your health. It’s going to be difficult, but you are worth it.
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