There are a lot of ideas out there on what it takes to change a habit. Most people are familiar with the thought that if you do something for 30 days, it will then be a habit. I don’t necessarily disagree, but I think there is a lot more to it than that. And the danger in that concept is that if you miss a day, you are back to square 1 … which for a lot of people is enough to send them into a tailspin. (I’m a failure … I’ll never get this right … etc. Been there?!)
The way I explain habit development to clients is using the analogy of a hiking trail in the woods. Imagine that like Anne of Green Gables, you have a trail through the woods that links your house with that of your best friend. That trail has been there for years and because you spend every day with your friend, it is nice and clear. Suppose one day you decide that you want to make a new trail so that you can walk past a particular berry bush on your way to your friend’s place. The first time you go that way it is going to be very difficult. You will have to do a lot of work to clear the new trail. But the more often you take that trail, the more clear and packed down it will become.
The old trail is still there, but every day it becomes more overgrown because you aren’t walking down it. If you do take the old trail one day, it doesn’t mean your new one is totally gone. You just want to get back to the new one to continue the process of making the new trail wider, more packed down, and easier to travel. And by traveling the new trail more often, you are also letting the old trail become more overgrown and forgotten.
This is literally what is happening with the neurons in your brain as you are establishing a new habit. New pathways are being built that make it easier to do the new habit each time. And concurrently, the old pathways are being forgotten. If you slip into your old pattern one day, you simply need to get back to the new one the next time. It is still there! And, it gets easier every time you do it.
What new habits are you developing new neural pathways for? Comment below!
Katie Kolb - Health Coach