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September 18, 2012

Living Independently: Adopting New Health Habits

It’s not easy to adopt new health habits, but sometimes it is necessary to change our diet or exercise routine. Even when we know something is good for us, and we truly want to reap the benefits of a change in lifestyle, getting our mind to go along with the new program can be an uphill battle. You may have heard, perhaps even from an expert, that it takes 21 days to institute a new habit; but there’'s little scientific evidence to back up that claim. In fact, a 2009 study in the European Journal of Social Psychology found that habit adaptation is highly individualized. Depending on the individual's desire for change and the magnitude of the change he or she is trying to make, the European study found that it can take between 18 and 254 days to form a new habit. And even then, not everyone will be successful. 

Even if the odds seem stacked against you, adopting a healthier lifestyle is a worthwhile goal that is worth a fair amount of effort. Psychologists say the key to success is to commit yourself to the long haul and accept that there will be moments of failure on the path to your goal. It’s common for people to backslide three or four times before successfully adopting a new habit. The challenge is not merely in adopting a new pattern, but in learning to ignore the old triggers that rise up daily, ready to push us down old paths and back into bad habits. 

Are there habits in your life that you are ready to break or change? Check back next time as we discuss tips for older adults who want to adopt new habits. In the meantime, learn more about your cognitive, mental, and emotional health with this free download

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Photo: Livin' Spoonful


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