Old habits die hard, especially ones that we’ve slowly built up over years.

Like smoking, eating something sweet after meals or watching our favorite Netflix show in the evening when we know we should be going for a walk or exercising.

We may even be diagnosed with a chronic disease like hypertension or diabetes and have been told by a doctor that our health, even our lives, depend on making healthy changes.

Making healthy lifestyle changes is difficult for all of us. Even if we’re enrolled in a digital behavior monitoring program that includes health coaching, we’ve still got to find the motivation to get up and do it.

So how do we make new habits?

Have you ever heard of a 30-Day Challenge?

It’s hard not to stumble across one of the hundreds of 30-Day Challenges that are all over the internet:

Eat grapefruit for 30 days and lose 30 pounds. Use this trading trick and make $30k in 30 days.

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but the 30-Day Challenges that are so popular today are based mostly on a myth built around a misunderstanding of a pop-science claim from the 1960s.

But a 30-Day Challenge isn’t total bunk. It’s actually a very good method to get you started on making healthy, long-lasting changes in your life.

So we’re going to show how you can create your own 30-Day Challenge to jumpstart your health goals and then give you some secret strategies to keeping them going.

How The 30-Day Challenge Myth Was Born

Dr. Maxwell Maltz was a plastic surgeon who as part of his treatment of his patients, became interested in how to improve their self-image after surgery. He found that it took about 21 days for patients to adjust to their new look.

Because of the simplicity of the 21 days to a better you (and selling 30 million copies of his book), it caught on and the idea of the 30-day window to change behaviors and create habits was born.

Even if it wasn’t necessarily true.

When we actually look at scientific studies, the window to lasting habit formation is a bit wider. One such study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, actually found that to create new habits, the window of time necessary was between 18 – 254 days.

Not quite as easy as a 30-day challenge.

But the one positive takeaway was, that through consistent, conscious effort, adults could form new healthy habits that last.

And a 30-Day Challenge can be the starting point.

Here’s how you start a 30-Day Challenge and some useful strategies to support your new healthy habits.

The 30-Day Challenge

A 30-Day Challenge is just a way to give yourself a good start to help you get over that initial hump then keep those healthy changes going.

Here are some simple strategies to help you create healthy habits to do everything from starting a new exercise routine to eating a healthier diet:

  • Choose one thing

You want to pick something realistic and easy to do. For example: drink water instead of a soft drink, eat nuts instead of chips for a snack, exercise for 15-minutes, limit social media use, sleep for at least 7 – 8 hours, etc.

  • Do it every day

Don’t skip a day – if you forget, go ahead and do it even if it’s the end of the day.

  • Log your progress

It helps to keep a log of your daily progress to have solid physical evidence and something to show you the progress you’re making.

  • Don’t neglect your emotional health

Your emotional and mental health is just as important as your physical health. Using mindfulness meditation techniques, taking up a hobby or talking to someone about your feelings are great ways to reduce daily stress and anxiety.

Strategies To Keep The Habit Strong

Starting a new healthy activity is easy – sticking with it is another story. According to Tom Bartow, a trainer for the financial advisors Edward Jones, there are 3 phases to habit formation that you need to make it through:

  1. The Honeymoon

This is the beginning phase when you’re fired up and super motivated. You’re going to make that change and nothing is going to stop you.

  1. The Fight Thru

The warm glow fades and reality begins to set in – hey, this isn’t easy. I don’t know if I’m going to make it. Here are some strategies to keep you going in this phase:

    • Recognize: Realize where you’re at and set your mind to push through
    • Ask Questions: “What happens if I give up?”, “What are the rewards if I stay strong?”
    • Life Projection: Ask yourself, “Where will I be 1 year, 3 years, or 5 years if I don’t make the changes I need to make?”.
  1. Second Nature

Congratulations, you’ve made it. Now the change you’ve made feels like second nature and you’re in the flow. But be careful, you can slip back into the Fight Thru stage. Here are some ways to keep you going:

    • The Discouragement Monster: negative thoughts and doubt creep in making you think it’s not working or you can’t do it. Slay that monster and keep on track.
    • Disruptions: yep, life gets in the way sometimes. If you have a disruption to your schedule, illness, vacation, or anything that throws you off, get right back into it as soon as you can.
    • Seduction of Success: don’t let success go to your head. If you’re seeing results and think it’s time to ease up – don’t. Stick to it.

So use a combination of a 30-Day Challenge to help you make positive life changes and then use the three-step strategies to keep them strong.

AlbumHealth helps our participants get through the challenging initial 30 days to better health.  Our behavior change methodology along with daily assistance of our health coaches helps keep participants on track to reach their health goals.

We start with looking at what is happening from “the neck up” because it has been clinically proven that overall health, especially physical health, cannot be improved if you are dealing with emotional health challenges.  Improving emotional health is the gateway to health improvement outcomes, and making habits stick.

You have the will, ability, and power to change your life – no matter how big or difficult the change may seem.

Just do a little bit every day for 30 days, and that thing you thought you couldn’t do – now you’re doing it every day without even thinking about it because it’s just habit.