Diet · Exercise · Heath · Rituals · Sleep

How long does it take to change habits?

Habits are interesting things and we really are defined and controlled by them.  Every aspect of your life is based on habitual behaviour.  We do own them.  We created them to suit our circumstances.  This is our bubble, or world, our routine.  When I turned around to look at how habits shape my life, it made me think about how long does it take for a new habit to be created?

It turns out that many people who are much smarter than me and have more letters after their name have studied this and the results are both fascinating and daunting as someone who is trying to alter habits.

Phillipa Lally’s study of 2009 found that new habit take between 21 and 254 days to form.  So either a month, or nearly a year.  Great!  Thanks Pip! There is a growing body of research which shows habit changes are key to achieve better health.  I think I’d come to that conclusion too – but it turns out that doctors consider it hard too.

Based on studies, health professionals rarely prescribe a habitual change due to the time it takes to explain the processes and offer support to those who are trying to change behaviours – modifying habits which have been adhered to for a lifetime.    Boiled down, though the advice for forming a new habit is: “repeat a chosen behaviour in the same context, until it becomes automatic and effortless.”


So far – this process for me has had it’s up’s and downs, the hardest being getting up at 5am.  I know I keep banging on about this, but I’ve arrived at the same conclusions on my own.  Context is important for repetition.  My day’s first task going for a 2 mile walk.  This is made more automatic and effortless by ensuring I prepare the night before.  Clothes, shoes and hat are in a neat pile so I can just throw them on quickly and get out the door. I’ve been doing this for 3 consecutive mornings now, and this morning it occupied less of my conscious mind.  It still hurt to physically wake up, but it happened.  I look forward to not having to think about the process – I think then the time spent will be less about the event and focus on other things.

These feelings of wanting it to become easier quicker led me to look into how long habits take to form.   Psychologically, these are classed as “system 2” processes, which are slow to modify.

Several studies refer to the time a habit takes to form is also directly related to the circumstances which have enabled the change.  For some it’s a health scare, for me it’s years of beating myself up for not doing it sooner.  A have an archive of well trodden excuses.  When they pop into my mind now, like “I’ll skip it this morning, I had a busy day yesterday” or “I’ve worked hard so far – one day without it won’t hurt, it’s like hearing an annoying lyric from a song you hate.  I know it’s intention.  Delay, procrastinate and putting it off.

Diet and exercise habits have felt easier because I’ve superimposed them on to another habit.  The apps which allow me to track my diet and exercise are on my smart phone which is a bit habit.  Most people, on average check their phone nearly 75 times a day.  At lease 30 of those checks, for me now is to see how many points I’ve got left or how many steps I’ve taken.  Doing that feels comfortable due to it’s context.

img_0058I guess, when I stop having the inner monologue with myself about these new habits I’ll have achieved my magic number of days to re-wire my brain.  I do sincerely hope it’s only slightly more than 21 and a lot less than 254.  I also know that any break with the formation of these new habits will reset my day count to 0.  I won’t let that happen again.

Heath · planning · Sleep

Welcome to the 5am club?

"It's mind over mattress!"

Unlike fight club, people do talk about 5 a.m club. They talk a lot about it on YouTube, Twitter and in the many seminars I’ve been watching.

Do these magical hours between 5am and work time hold the secret to success, wealth and fitness? A lot of people think they do. This for me is day one as part of this exclusive club of mind over mattress. It’s 5:42. It’s dark, I’ve done some exercises and I am about to shower.

Oh, and I’ve written this… and this.  Wow.  It’s early.  I guess that novelty will wear off.  I’ve just seen the full moon set.  The sun is starting to rise.  The sky is turning gradually more blue.  The birds are awake now.  Traffic.  Noise starts.  Glasgow is awake beneath my 8th floor window.

Right.  Fast forward to the end of the day and I’m impressed.  It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  I got stuff done, and I didn’t feel more tired or “jet lagged” throughout the day.  I did mention my new “ritual” to someone at work today and they said “why?”.  Well, today wasn’t about the WHY, it was about the WHEN and today was the first day.  Tomorrow’s 5am will be much more productive.  Tonight I’m thinking making a list of what I need to achieve in those 3 quiet hours before the sun wakes up for the day.

This week away from home has been a complete success in terms of diet and exercise – aided by the walk to and from work – some 3.4 miles a day really helps keep my FitBit happy and quiet.  The notifications do help, but not when you have a crushing deadline that has to be finished by 6pm before our boss in London leaves the office.

Anyhoo.  Tomorrow morning’s list is as follows:

  1. Wake up – – done
  2. Exercise for 20 minutes – done
  3. shower – done
  4. Coffee – done
  5. Work on website for 1 hour – done
  6. Write 1st draft script for MLC YouTube trailer – done
  7. Get bags airport ready – done
  8. Check out of hotel – done
  9. Walk to work (1.2 miles) – with suitcase! – done, but it hurt!

That should take me up to 9am easily.  That’s the plan.

Thanks for reading and subscribing – and I’ll keep you posted with how it all goes.  Getting some good video content together, and the first video and the trailer will hit the channel soon.

Diet · Exercise · Heath · Sleep

My bags are packed…

This week has been a bit of a blur but it’s Sunday night and tomorrow morning I’ll be up at 3:45am to fly to Glasgow to finish off a science series on looking good.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were focused on getting a structure to the day, but being off I must admit that sticking to the routine of early walks was difficult for me.  I don’t get on with early nights or early mornings.  It’s not the walking, it’s just the getting out of bed when I know I don’t “need” to.   We did make up for it by exploring the area and generally walking about.

We went to Cirencester and found a lovely disused canal hidden away in the Cotswolds.  A coffee was had.  It also came with a one of this amazing bisquits – the brown ones.   Didn’t eat it.  Being strong willed is a rewarding experience, but it’s hard sometimes.


You hear it all the time, people who have health scares transform their life with a diet change, exercise regime and pace of life.  I’m not saying that this is required for me to get out of bed before 7:40am – but if I don’t sort my shit out soon…  I really need to do this.

Thursday and Friday saw a couple of days working  at the BBC.  Again, I didn’t get up to walk, just the normal workday schedule.  Disappointed feelings about that.

Saturday and Sunday were kids orientated as my wife was away for the weekend.  The exercise was fine though as we walked nearly 7 miles around an open day at a local airfield.  It was great fun.  I wasn’t at all temped by the donuts, sweet stalls or hamburger vans.  This was largely because most food cost £23,000 per portion and queues were astronomical.

We did the sensible thing and took a meal deal from a supermarket (£3.00) … a main, snack and drink.  As it was the weekend, I chose a sandwich for speed and ease of eating on the hoof.  When I scanned it in, Ham, cheese and Mayo on wholemeal bread.  14 Weight Watchers points!  Holy hell.  It’s no shock, now that I’m logging all food, that I’ve put on weight!  Every day I had that very lunch except with the added calorific punch of a full fat Coke and Crisps, mainly Doritos!  That must have been 30 points easy.  At my height and weight, that’s more than half of my daily allowance.

While at the airfield I got chatting with someone who runs a flight school.  Something to consider if I’m trying to see what my Dad’s experiences entailed.  Bizarrely she used to work for the same company I did years ago.  We have several mutual friends but she managed to dig a tunnel out of TV and now runs a flight school!  It’s a small world.

So, as I await my 3:45am alarm call, I do take some comfort in the fact that I really stuck to my diet plan.  I’ve lost another 4lbs – that’s a grand total of 18 pounds so far in just 3 weeks.  This week in Glasgow will surely mean a few late nights at work, but I’m sure I will have some time in the week to attack the to do list and get a few more things ticked off.  I’ll also endeavour to get into a morning routine.  Watch this space!  It will happen.

Right, a bit of sitting down and then sleep for a short while anyway!