Not my habit. Or, maybe it is.

by Peggy Hahn, LEAD Executive Director

I love fresh starts. As people of faith, we get one every morning when we wake up. Every Sunday. Every new month. Every new season. You get it – pick a day and shift habits that give life.

Have you noticed we are all pushing the practices we know are life-giving to the “when we have time” list? We are squeezing our spiritual, communal, and personal life between the cracks of our to-do list. Rest, exercise, family, friends. Even worship and prayer wind up as options, crammed into the expectations everyone else has for us. Our habits are messing up our lives. I have my list and I bet you do too, even if you aren’t saying it out loud.

This is not one of those articles to make you feel ashamed of your over-functioning or under-functioning. It is a simple invitation to practice life a little differently, in community, during the four weeks of Advent (LEAD’s daily intentions for Advent are a great place to start). But Advent isn’t nearly long enough to truly create new habits.

Here’s what the experts are saying:

This notion of acting without thinking — known in science as “automaticity” — turns out, perhaps unsurprisingly, to be a central driver of habits. And it helps illuminate the real question at the heart of this inquiry: How long did it actually take for people to form a habit? In his article, “How Long It Takes to Form a New Habit“, Psychologist Jeremy Dean writes:

The simple answer is that, on average, across the participants who provided enough data, it took 66 days until a habit was formed. As you might imagine, there was considerable variation in how long habits took to form depending on what people tried to do. People who resolved to drink a glass of water after breakfast were up to maximum automaticity after about 20 days, while those trying to eat a piece of fruit with lunch took at least twice as long to turn it into a habit. The exercise habit proved most tricky with “50 sit-ups after morning coffee,” still not a habit after 84 days for one participant. “Walking for 10 minutes after breakfast,” though, was turned into a habit after 50 days for another participant.

I love The Power of Habit, a book by Charles Duhigg on this topic.

I love fresh starts.

I’ll have a new one tomorrow!

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