Okay, so it’s day 27 of my new year’s resolution to quit refined sugar, and I am jonesing for a chocolate chip cookie. Specifically, a chocolate chip cookie made with milk chocolate. I am feeling cranky and questioning why I should have to give up my favourite chocolate chip cookies. I mean I’ve gone this long; I deserve a cookie, right?
Despite the crankiness and desperation for a cookie, I know that I shouldn’t give up on my goal. I know that I am feeling cranky and faltering in my will to quit refined sugar because I am in the disarrayed middle of habit formation.
According to research at University College London, it takes the average person 66 days to form a habit (the popularly quoted ‘21 days’ to form a habit is a myth). That said, the length of time it takes to form a habit can vary depending on the person and their behaviours as well as circumstances.
During the first 22 days of habit formation, old patterns of the mind are broken down by overcoming old ways of thinking and being. This usually is when ‘Cognitive Distortions’ come up. Cognitive Distortions are ways our mind convinces us of something that isn’t true. For example:
During the 2nd 22 days is when we are no longer in our comfort zone. New habits are beginning to form, Cortisol, the stress hormone becomes elevated, and we feel like giving up. In dramatic terms, the old you must ‘die’ to become reborn.
During the 3rd 22 days is when the habit becomes an automated routine whereby willpower is no longer needed, and the habit becomes a lifestyle rather than a goal to be reached.
So, I am on day 27 and my mind wants to flip flop on my goal, yet my will is telling me to push through. Research suggests that missing a day during habit formation does not affect the habit formation process, however for me personally that is a slippery slope. If I give in to just one cookie on one day, then it won’t take long to let my goal of quitting refined sugar go down the pan.
Roll on May 6 when day 66 rolls around.
Coaching Pro Tip: If you have a goal that you wish to make a habit, then write out 1-66 on a calendar and tick off each day that you have achieved your goal. The visual guilt of putting an X in the box if you don’t pursue your goal on a particular day may help you to push forward during the confusing middle part of habit formation.