“One day, I’ll eat healthily.” “I’ll exercise three times a week.” “I’ll drink only once a week.”
Those, my friends, are the kinds of promises and challenges we give ourselves. The New Year Resolutions, however, without determination, often ends up being a blip in the vast Universe of ego-stroking undertakings.
For most personal resolutions, jumping head-long into challenges promises us a way to change our old ways, improve ourselves, and, perhaps, carve a better habit into our daily lives. Many challenges have been thrown out there that help with behavioral changes, diet and weight loss, productivity, and other simpler ones that bring about a cleaner and less cluttered homes.
Yes, we’re talking about Marie Kondo-ing, to a certain extent.
The question is this: Do these challenges have a long-lasting effect on us after the fad blows over?
The answer is a ‘yes’ and a ‘no’ because...let’s look at some of the most popular internet challenges.
The Most Popular Challenges in Modern Internet Age
- The 30-day fitness challenge
- The 22-day Do Something Different Challenge
- The Bucket Challenge
- The Gangnam Style Challenge
- The One-Year Vegetarian Diet Challenge
- The Mannequin Challenge
- The KiKi Challenge
- The Sprite and Banana Challenge
- The Mentos & Diet Coke Challenge
Yes, these are real challenges and while a few of those might sound pretty logical to us, some of them are just straight-on whacky. But still, the whacky seems to rule the storm when it comes to the Internet.
Good challenges help us learn new habits or break bad ones. Others were created by people who saw an opportunity for the 15-minute worth of Internet fame.
If you’re in it for the fun of it, go ahead. The Ice Bucket challenge is not going to last for more than the 10 seconds it is going to take for your friend to pour a large bucket of ice-cold water over you.
But if you want to take on a challenge that turns into a long-term habit, let’s try to understand how our brains work.
What is a Habit?
Experts tell us an automatic response.
A long-term behavioral change is associated with our determination to stick to something we want to achieve. Sort of like a sojourn towards a destination.
Turning a short-term challenge into a long-term habit takes time, effort, a lot of determination, and maybe even a buddy system. That’s, after all, why people lug their friends or family members to marathons, the gym, or diets.
First, you initiate the behavior. Then, you repeat it by setting reminders and urging each other on.
The repeated behaviors become an accepted norm in your brain and it becomes a habit.
This is common for people who are trying to either eat less, meditate, wake up early, or establish a work-at-home routine.
Does the 30-Day Challenge Work?
Whether your new 30-day challenge works or fails, it all depends on your intention, persistence, and mindset. Habits take time. The 30-day challenge will get the ball rolling but it may not be enough time to make it a ‘long-lasting’ change. It also depends on the circumstances.
Some research says that if you implement a new change in your life and repeat it religiously for at least 22 days, you’re good to go.
Others contend that it takes an average of 66 days for the new behavior to become an ingrained part of your daily routine.
“According to a 2009 study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes 18 to 254 days for a person to form a new habit.” - HealthLine
Your new endeavor also comes with a lot of variables.
For instance, ‘waking up at 5am every morning’ which comes from Robin Sharma’s life playbook (AND book) may be harder to bring about a long-lasting effect, ‘drinking a glass of warm water right after you wake up in the morning’ is obviously easier.
Another variable to take into account is your personality type. Some people just don’t like habits. Here’s how it generally takes a new challenge to turn into a new routine.
Understanding The Purpose of the New Habit
Dr. Maxwell Maltz, an American cosmetic surgeon who launched the concept off with his book, Psycho-Cybernetics in 1960, was credited as the man who developed a system that improves one's self-image and quality of life.
The purpose of forming new habits was to trigger actions that become so ingrained in our brains that actions go on autopilot.
Sort of like when you’ve had too much to drink but still manages to get yourself to bed at home. It’s like putting on your seatbelt whenever you get into your car.
These habits are meant to free up ‘resources’ and ease your mental capacity because they become mental cues. It has also been credited to enhance performance and efficiency.
"Habits are also cognitively efficient because the automation of common actions frees mental resources for other tasks." - Br J Gen Pract, British Journal of General Practice
Benefits of Establishing a New Habit
Bear in mind that establishing a new habit is different from breaking an old one although the new one can be used to put a dent on the old one. Since it takes an average of 66 days to form new habits, the 30-day challenge is a mid-way gauge.
You know...a bar to measure how far you’ve come and used to decide if it is going the way you want it to.
There are many benefits to jumping onto the 30-day challenge bandwagon. It:
- Boost your self-confidence
- Makes you feel happy
- Boosts momentum towards your desired destination
- Gives your immune system a boost
- You get to celebrate small successes
- Keeps you moving forward in life
- Forms new friendships in the form of emotional and mental support
- Adds value to your everyday life
The Downside of Embarking on a 30-Day Challenge Journey
There are many benefits to taking on new challenges but here are five words we need to remind our readers - Don’t Take It Too Far.
Some people have sky-high expectations whenever they sign up for a 30-day Challenge, especially when they have friends who are highly invested in the new habit-forming challenge. If you’ve signed up with a mentor or coach for the program, speak openly to them when you have concerns and worries.
It is dangerous to adopt the All-or-Nothing approach where stopping or faltering along the way is deemed either a failure or weakness.
Missing a day because you’re sick, busy at work, or had to attend to a family emergency should not derail you. Just pick yourself up and get back on the train.
If it makes you feel better, go all the way back to the beginning and restart the journey!
Don’t feel bad about it because that's how most people end up ditching their New Year resolutions.
Making it Pleasure- and Reward-Based
When we don’t make the mark, we tend to feel awful and feel the urge to give up. That’s why, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), pleasure-based habits are harder to break! No surprises there, thanks to dopamine.
The release of dopamine encourages us to stick to the new habit. In fact, we’ll feel like hopping on the treadmill if we really feel good about it even during our off days.
So, what you can do is to give yourself small rewards for sticking it out!
It can be something as simple as indulging in a self-care routine to revive your age!
There’s no one-size-fits-all. There’s no wishing well and no crystal ball. It all boils down to your own personality, goals, and determination.
It could take someone overnight to quit smoking and go to the gym three times a week but you might take a year to quit it and use the gym once a week.
Take heart in the fact that there is no right or wrong timeline and comparison is futile and could even damage your newly adopted habit. Take your time to understand yourself.
- Start a gratitude jar
- Start a daily written/doodle journal
- Read a (few) joke(s) every day
- Meditate 8 or 10 or 20 minutes in the morning/evening
- Talk to someone
- Listen to a song that makes you happy
- Tune out the internet and social media 1 hour before bedtime
- Start a new hobby and indulge for at least an hour every day
- Call your parents
- Go vegetarian a day/three days a week
- Skip the coffee/beer/liquor
Alternatively, go on this 30-Day Health Challenge.
After the lockdown, everyone’s concerned about our health and safety. We totally get you!
Maybe embarking on a journey of self-improvement is just the thing we need to give our physical and mental health a big ole’ boost!
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