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You made it: congratulations on completing Veganuary.
During your 31 days without meat, fish, eggs, and dairy, you have saved approximately:
- 129,080 litres of Water
- 88 sq.m of Forest
- 282kg of CO2
- 18kg of Grain
- 31 Animal Lives
Imagine what you could save if you kept going?
What happens next?
If you’re reading this then you probably haven’t faded away from protein deficiency. Who’d have thought you could go so long without all the nutritional properties of meat and dairy? After all, we are always told that we need them in our diets for good health.
Hopefully now you’re hungry to continue your plant powered journey and build on the progress you have made over the last month.
I know how difficult it can be in the first couple of months as you figure things out, and your body starts adapting to a new way of eating, so now is not the time to quit after you’ve put in so much committed effort. Remember why you did it and that it can take much longer than 31 days to build a solid habit.
It takes on average 66 days to form a habit
21 days is the commonly cited length of time that it takes for a habit to take place, but on deeper exploration that figure could be a long way off depending on the complexity of the habit and the individual.
In the book Making Habits, Breaking Habits by Jeremy Dean, he quotes a study that gives us a more concrete answer to the elusive question, just how long does it take for a habit to take hold?
The study carried out at University College London, included 96 participants who were all asked to choose an everyday behaviour that they wanted to turn into a habit over 84 days.
On average across the participants, it took 66 days until a habit was formed, and there was much variation in just how long these habits took to form.
Not all habits are created equal and the time it takes for the habit to grow roots into your everyday life depends on many factors, including:
- The complexity of the habit
- How it fits into your lifestyle/routine
- The frequency of practise
- The Individuals habit forming skills
When the researchers plotted the results, they found an interesting curved relationship between the habit and automaticity.
At the beginning you make great strides towards your goal and then it gradually levels out the closer you get to the outcome. I expect this was due to the initial exposure to resistance and the stepping out of your comfort zone, along with the inspiration and motivation you feel when you start out on a new journey, such as going vegan.
They also noticed that the slowing down of progress was pronounced amongst those participants who were not used to the process of habit forming. So just like a muscle, the more we exercise habit forming and self-discipline the stronger and easier it becomes.
Although the study only covered 84 days, by expanding the data they had collected, it showed that some of the habits could have taken up to 254 days to form. Essentially the simpler the habit, the quicker and easier it is to form, more complex habits will take much longer to form, especially if you are not someone who is used to forming them.
How Habits Work
In another book, The Power of Habit By Charles Duhigg, he explores the actual study of how habits are actually formed, amongst the thousands of theories behind them he came up with the following framework for understanding how habits work and a guide to experimenting with how they might change.
There is a simple neurological loop with three parts that we go through when creating habits, it contains a cue, a routine and a reward.
The framework to discover the why behind your habits and how to move them in a more positive direction covers the following four steps:
1. Identify The Routine
Eg. Going out for a burger with friends.
2. Experiment With Rewards
Eg. Trying the new vegan burger option.
3. Isolate The Cue
Eg. Location, time, social group etc
4. Have A Plan
Once you work out, your ‘habit loop’, the reward driving your behaviour, the cue triggering it, and the routine itself, you can begin to shift the behaviour and start choosing one that delivers the habit you are looking to form. This may need you to create a plan surrounding your habits when dining out.
Identify your routine and experiment with rewards
The roots of long held habits and belief systems can take a long time to untangled and replant, especially when concerning food, from the physical effects of different nutrient sources, the emotional attachment you may have to certain foods and the social situations you find yourself in.
Remember that it’s all about enjoying the process of change, of which it may take you several months or a year, to fully understand. Focus on progress not perfection and those small improvements you can make each day, keep experimenting with new foods, reading and immersing yourself in the plant-based world and don’t be hard on yourself if you fall off the wagon, you’re only human, don’t let other vegans convince you otherwise.
So please don’t stop your vegan journey now, it’s only just begun and if you want to cement that habit, you’ll need to keep going for at least another month. By then you’ll have doubled the impact your positive changes are making, imagine a year on and all the other people around you who will have been indirectly affected by your positive actions and caring mindset, this may then encourage them to try Veganuary next year, change always starts within.
Be The Change.
Adam Stansbury is currently crowdfunding to publish his book; Plant Powered: Transform Your Body and Our Planet. Please click here to help support his book you can make a pledge and get 10 percent off when you use the code ‘plantbasednews’.