How to Train Your Dragon
July 3, 2015
Apparently it is a myth that takes three weeks for something “new” to become a “habit”. 1960s research gave a figure of 21 days but apparently the common understanding is that it takes, on average, 66 days for a new habit to be “the norm”.
We had a new arrival at Hudson HQ on Saturday. Lovely Husband’s birthday present of a Bearded Dragon (called Goku). He is stunning but we have to get into the habit of sanitising our hands before and after we handle him (as much to stop Goku getting ‘something nasty’ off us as well as making sure we don’t get anything troublesome from him). There is a big bottle of bearded-dragon approved hand cleanser on top of his tank and I’m having to train myself to use that before I give into the urge to open the doors and pick him up (as he scrabbles furiously at the glass desperate to be held). The problem is it doesn’t tell me how long a “habit” takes to become a completely natural, normal, do-it-without-thinking part of life and so I’m really having to think about it at the moment.
We are also trying to train him to understand that just because we happen to be in front of his tank, it doesn’t mean we’re going to let him out for playtime or a cuddle. We need to get him to learn new habits. In that respect Goku and I are very similar – although I’m not sure how long it takes a Bearded Dragon to learn new habits – but I have discovered that the advice that it takes three weeks for something “new” to become a “habit” is a myth.
Apparently, 1960s research gave a figure of 21 days but apparently the common understanding is that it takes, on average, 66 days for a new habit to be “the norm”.
So Goku and I are on a “how to train your dragon” journey together.
Habits have also been a big part of my quest to whittle my waist. In terms of my weight loss journey, I’ve ditched many habits from the past. Nowadays it doesn’t ever occur to me to buy “full fat” or “semi-skimmed” milk anymore; decaffeinated coffee and tea is also very definitely a default setting. A small seeded wholemeal loaf has replaced the standard white-medium sliced family loaf we used to have and butter and margarine aren’t on the lists at all... and I never find myself subconsciously picking up a tub whilst in the supermarket.
I have also made water a very positive habit. I have a basic “in-out” system (which means whenever I go to the loo, I make sure I have half a pint of water straight afterwards – it’s a primitive system but it works for me and ensures that, with my glass of water with meals, I’m staying hydrated (particularly important now the hot summer weather seems to have finally arrived).
But… LH gave up smoking eighteen months ago. He did it cold turkey, it wasn’t easy and it took a good many months before the cravings passed and his “default settings” changed. He surprised himself last week when, on heading out from Hudson HQ he did his “check”… Keys… wallet… and added “cigarettes… Lighter”… to the list. He hadn’t done that for a year, yet something in his brain, even after all this time, still had it “on a list” somewhere in his mental filing cabinet. So I wondered how long does it take to “erase” a past habit from the neural pathways in the brain.
Are they ever really erased or do they just go into the “recycle bin” so they are in effect gone.. but easy to locate if ever they are needed again?
I have been scrupulously dedicated in the week since we returned from holiday. I have gone back to being absolutely strict and have resisted all manner of temptations which occasionally creep back in (sometimes without me knowing it) but...
I wonder if I will ever be able to walk past the high street baker and not get the urge to dash in for a custard slice? Will Cornish pasties always be a temptation or the day come when I genuinely could “take or leave” them?
In my “post-holiday” review I have been surprised by just how many “good habits” I now have, which have have been a direct result of my WLR journey. Taken on their own they don’t seem very significant but when I add them all together I can see just how they improve my chances of being slender and healthy. Some of them have been harder to “hard wire” than others... and I know now that there are a lot more habits that I could adopt to increase the speed and efficiency of my quest for a waist once more.
I also know that whilst I am proud of all the positive changes I have made in my life since joining WLR, I am also very aware that I cannot become complacent. My former “bad habits” and in the past but, as LH said… when he thought “cigarettes and lighter”... the pathways that led me to them are still in my brain; the potential for “lapsing” will always be in there – the key is to create a different mind-set where they are not on your radar, where they are not your default setting, and where they are a not a “constant craving”. So it’s not just “our dragon” that has to work on his training…