30 Days to Better Habits: Start a Monthly Challenge

Need some help in order to create better habits? Me too. Start with 30 days to better habits. That’s why I’ve wanted to include important information for you as you go about on a path of holistic healing. Both in my professional career and in my personal life, I’ve learned about goal setting and best practices in order to change habits. And change ain’t always easy. So I’m including this post on my site in order to help you learn the science behind building new habits and get motivated to start those new habits in only 30 days.

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Who Else is Starting 30 Day Challenges?

Well, it turns out a lot of people are starting new habits these days. A guy named James Clear started a website in 2012 compiling all of the hottest tips and tricks to start and stick with new habits. He even wrote a book which has sold over 9 million copies worldwide. He doesn’t claim to have made up the tips and tricks, but compiled and organized them in a way that would best help people change their lives.

You can look him up on jamesclear.com/30 days or on his book Atomic Habits website.

So many other academic programs and certain certifications focus on providing the user with skills to meet any challenge in today’s fast paced world.

The Harvard Business Review Press published a program called the Harvard Business Review Guide to Getting the Right Work Done: Stay Focused, Accomplish More, Manage Your Energy. The guide, like so many out there, provide a framework especially for professionals to streamline their work habits in order to be more productive.

If you haven’t really thought about your goals and dreams, work performance, health abilities, and other demands on your time and how to do more of what you want and less of what you don’t want, it might be time to start your own 30-day challenge. If you know you want more out of life and need the time to get to them, you might want to do a 30 days to better habits challenge.

What does the Research Say About Starting New Habits?

There have been many research studies over the years with a keen interest in understanding how goals are achieved, how habits over time are formed and how intrinsic factors are involved, such as self-control.

  • One 2020 study found that when a habit was performed routinely over the course of 90 days, the action was more likely to become a habit. The researchers suggested that they thought self-control would play a role in the ability to form a new habit, but the study found that self-control didn’t have a strong correlation to habit formation. (1)
  • Another study from 2021 conducted research on a cohort of cancer survivors who had undergone treatment and now were left fatigued and tired and their subsequent ability to form new habits. The study found that with social support, the respondents were able to form new habits in order to move forward in life and deal with the chronic fatigue. Participants discovered new physical and emotional boundaries, planned and reorganized their activities and rest, and began letting go of prior habitual identity factors life before cancer and chronic fatigue). (2)
  • A third study from 2016 with a small sample size of 10 people found that habits took longer to implement at first and over time became to implement. However, many habits are formed in a work-like context and weekends may disrupt habit formation in this context. (3)

These studies and many others though do not address the role of rewards and punishment in habit formation, the role of the peer group, and the role in natural abilities. One only need look at early developmental childhood psychology to see how children learn new habits.

The role of the vision you have for your life in your mind plays an important part in creating new habits and losing habits that no longer serve a purpose. Keep this in mind as your embark on 30 days to better habits.

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30 Days to Better Practices

As a quick, non-researched based summary, my take is that you will be able to form new habits more easily if you see the purpose of them, if they take you in a direction you want to go and that this direction seems positive to you. It may only take 30 days to better habits, but make sure they are taking you in the right direction.

Any new habit could be positive, but it may not be necessary for your life’s plan. Is it congruent with your life plan or the plan God reveals to your heart?

Let’s jump into a few other things!

Picking A Habit

It is my stated belief that most anyone can begin and sustain a new habit, but is it the right habit? Is the habit going to improve your life more than another habit?

Sometimes, you just have to look at your life, and pick something to work on. This is especially true if you’ve really become complacent in life or unhappy in several areas of your life.

When thinking about which habit to start with, look at the bigger picture. Ask yourself a few questions.

What problem am I experiencing daily that is not working anymore? This may the the place to build 30 days to better habits and a good place to start.

Of these problems, which one do I want to work on first? Whatever gives you that spark of motivation I say is a good place to start. Sometimes, we need a quick victory or to do what inspires us.

Finally, which problem has been hanging over my head for too long because I secretly am annoyed/defeated/lose energy thinking about it? This may be a great problem you could see 30 days to better habits. These problems may require some sound advice from a spiritual guide, coach or therapist? Why? Because these are drains on our lives and we may get detailed because our deeply rooted emotions and feelings may be involved.

Building habits to change these types of intractable problems may involve a huge shift in our lives inevitably and that scares us. And, the fear is what keeps you stuck.

Making S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Alright. Say you’ve figured out a problem in your life you are trying to solve or you want to head in a new direction because it’s simply time.

If you’ve got a direction and you need a habit, make sure to use S.M.A.R.T. goals as you build out 30 days to better habits.

S.M.A.R.T. goals are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound.

Rewards and Accountability

As I mentioned earlier, it’s important to build in some rewards and accountability as you plan out your 30 days to better habits plan.

Let’s say you decided to stop leaving used clothing all over your floor to pile up over the course of a week, but to instead throw dirty clothes into your laundry basket each night.

You may feel a reward already for seeing the fruits of your labors over time, but you may get lazy after a few weeks or forget on the weekends. Say, you build in a reward for doing this habit successfully every 7 days in a row. Treat yourself to a special meal or do the sticker reward system. Whatever feels like a nice little appreciation.

Also, sometimes when the habit is especially hard to break or start new, find someone to be your cheerleader. At least until you’ve been in the habit for 30 days or longer. Ask your friend, significant other, Facebook community groups, therapist to ask you how your challenge is going or talk about what it feels like.

You could also journal or blog about your experience and share with others what this process is like for you.

Decide how you will be held accountable from the get-go. It will help you stay motivated.

30 days to better habits

30-Day Challenge Ideas

There are so many ways you could go with forming 30 days to better habits, depending what your life looks like to you and where you want to go. This can be overwhelming if you’ve never really thought about this type of future base planning, live in the moment (or past) or just aren’t in the habit of forming new habits.

Also, you may not need to keep up with this habit forever. You can always change goals if you find that the habit you picked isn’t the right one for you. Be careful not to get paralyzed by overthinking it. At the same time, sometimes just thinking about what kind of life you want will inspire you over time with taking small daily steps in a very eclectic type of 30 days to better habits motif.

Ideas for you:

  • Hobbies
    • Practice your chosen musical instrument for 30 days and post it on YouTube
    • Practice one song for 30 days and then play it for your family
    • Start a spring garden and water and care for it appropriately for 30 days
    • Spend 30 days watching painting tutorials online and practicing the technique afterwards
  • Relationships
    • Find out what your significant other’s love language is and practice ‘speaking it’ every day for 30 days.
    • Support one other person in a uniquely caring way each day for 30 days and at the end of the day offer it as a bouquet of love to God.
  • Work or Career based habits
    • If you are overwhelmed at work, pick 10 minutes a day to meditate
    • If you are overwhelmed at work, practice getting through you three most challenging items within the first two hours of starting work.
    • If you feel stuck at work or in a career in general, practice writing out a brainstorm list each day of what your ideal day looks like just to see the possibilities. At the end of the 30 days, notice themes. Determine next 30 day habit.

As you can see, there are so many different ways you can build out a new habit that is right for you. One of these may sound great, but might not be the best use of your time in your life right now.

Pray on it. Feel or think out something you will feel good about.

A Note About Perceived Failure

Just a note on perceived failure. You may find that you aren’t able to stay with your chosen habit for 30 days. Maybe it doesn’t work because you have too much going on and it doesn’t fit right now. Maybe you got bored with it because it wasn’t the right direction. Or maybe, you ran into a self-sabotage wall.

In any case, this type of inner work should get you down.

Just get curious. Suss out the reason you think it is and decide what to do next.

If you notice you chronically cannot finish what you start, you may want to dig deeper in that ‘why.’ You may be physically exhausted and in a brain fog that needs to be addressed first. Whatever the reason, pay attention.

Conclusion

Thanks for joining in on this post about forming new habits in 30 days! I personally have found it very helpful to do monthly challenges for myself in various areas of my life to prevent stagnation and boredom. Sometimes, they have been to avoid further pain in an area of my life about things I’d finally ‘had it’ about.

Let pain and purpose be your allies!

What are 30 days challenges you are thinking about? Comment below and share!

References

(1) van der Weiden, Anouk, et. at. How to Form Good Habits? A Longitudinal Field Study on the Role of Self-Control in Habit Formation. Front Psychology. 2020 Mar 27;11:560.

(2) Bootsma, Tom, et. al. Forming new habits in the face of chronic cancer-related fatigue: An interpretative phenomenological study. Support Care Cancer. 2021; 29(11): 6651–6659.

(3) Lally, Phillipa, et al. Experiences of habit formation: a qualitative study. Psychology Health Med. 2011 Aug;16(4):484-9.

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