If you're still trying to process all the valuable lessons you learned at this year's revitalize, we don't blame you. The fresh mountain air of Dove Mountain was enough to push the reset button for many of us, and the thought-provoking talks inspired us endlessly. Sadly, every weekend can't be like revitalize—but you can take the valuable nutrition lessons you learned from Lisa Hayim, R.D., and apply them to your life starting today, and you can even start doing the heart-pumping workout you did with TMAC fitness founder Todd McCullough on your own.
So before you go back to your old ways of reaching for a cookie when you're feeling stressed out at work (hey, it happens to the best of us), consider this: You can take your revitalize inspiration and make it into a habit. Here's what you need to know.
How long does it actually take to form a habit?
You've probably heard that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. While that's a great start, it's not entirely correct—recent research out of University College London conducted habit-related experiments on 96 people over a 12-week period. They found that on average, it took 66 days for a habit to start feeling automatic.
So whether you want to start doing Light Watkins' meditation every morning, incorporate more vegetables into your daily life, or start taking regular breaks from technology, give it some time and don't expect change to happen overnight!
The easiest time to form a new habit is while you're on vacation.
When it comes to forming new habits, here's where you're at an advantage: Research shows that the best time to form a new habit is when you're faced with a transition, like getting married, starting a new job, or moving. And yes, vacation counts. As professor and Vice Dean Wendy Wood, Ph.D., explains in a conversation with happiness expert Gretchen Rubin, habits are activated automatically by context cues—and when you change the context, habits tend to change. "We find that habit change is easiest when people move house or undergo some other life transition that changes the contexts in which they live (e.g., start a new job, get married)," she says. "This is perhaps why people often report that they started a new, healthy behavior when on vacation. Away from familiar cues to bad habits, people are freed to act in new ways. Beware, though, that changing everyday contexts also removes cues to good habits. And in my research, people who were exercising habitually didn’t continue to do so after they moved and the cues to exercise changed."
Work on changing your habit loop.
In his extensive research into habit formation, Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, noticed a peculiar habit of his own. Every day around the same time, he would go to the cafeteria at the same time to buy a cookie. He soon realized that the cookie wasn't actually what he was craving—he was craving social interaction with his co-workers. In Duhigg's case, the cue was boredom, the routine was going to the cafeteria to buy a cookie and chat with his colleagues around the cash register, and the reward was the cookie. Because rewards are very powerful, he decided to change the reward—interacting with his colleagues.
"What you choose to do instead of buying a cookie isn’t important," he explains on his blog. "The point is to test different hypotheses to determine which craving is driving your routine. Are you craving the cookie itself or a break from work? If it’s the cookie, is it because you’re hungry? (In which case the apple should work just as well.) Or is it because you want the burst of energy the cookie provides? (And so the coffee should suffice.) Or, are you wandering up to the cafeteria as an excuse to socialize, and the cookie is just a convenient excuse? (If so, walking to someone’s desk and gossiping for a few minutes should satisfy the urge.)"