The Neurology of Habits – How Long Does it Take? (Posture Hack #5)

Do you ever feel like you are one of the most un-disciplined people you know? We all feel that way sometimes. I’m so committed to my health and posture, that occasionally I spin out and think I’m a lazy lump for missing even one day of Posturecise; but it wasn’t always such a solid habit of mine.

When I was in my teens, I was super active and sporty. When I turned 19, I moved away and went to university and stopped all forms of physical activity – I began drinking on weekends like you do, and barely got my degree (this was long before I went back to university to become a Chiropractor by the way).

I lived as many students do – ate pizza, drank vodka and cranberry (because I didn’t like the taste of alcohol) and smoked at parties – ugh! I can’t believe that was me.

When I finished University (the first time around) I moved to Toronto and I began having almost daily headaches. One afternoon I walked by a Chiropractic office and I took myself in. The adjustments I received from the Chiropractor literally changed my life. Not only did my headaches disappear, I began considering what life as a Chiropractor could be like.

My Chiropractor recommended AECC – as it was small (only 500 students), in a beautiful 500 year old building and 5 minutes from the beautiful sandy beaches of Bournemouth. Sold! I applied, got accepted and up and moved my life to England for another five years of study at the age of 28.

As a Chiropractic student I was increasingly aware of and fascinated by the people I met through the Chiropractic profession – Students, practitioners and the children of practitioners. They all seemed to have one thing in common: An abundance of health and positivity. This experience was the beginning of a lifelong journey for me.

Over the years in private practice I further developed my habit of natural living. I began reading about the habits and practices of people I admired. I also had x-rays taken of my spine and spent a further two years studying the bio-physics of posture. I finally understood why I had had years of headaches and low back pain.

I began making videos on posture and gradually, I added more healthy routines to my life and developed habits that would last a lifetime.

One of the first steps in building healthy new habits, was having regular Chiropractic treatment in college. I went to the student Chiropractor every two weeks for an adjustment. I began to cut out the chemicals from my life. I started using fluoride-free toothpaste, natural laundry detergent (today, I only use vinegar and salt) green cleaning products – again mostly vinegar; sulphate-free shampoo; chemical-free sunscreens and vegetable soaps for my body.

I started reading food labels (especially for added sugars) and taking on my nutrition; which meant learning to cook!

I changed the time I exercised to mornings, so I’d never be too tired to do it. Initially my posturecise goal was ridiculously simple (Hack #4). I started with just 10 minutes each morning and I continued adding more exercises and creating more posture videos. In 12 short months I’d had 1 million views!

My morning routine expanded, and I eventually created a DVD of my own personal morning Posturecise routine. My part-time posture obsession became my full-time devotion.

How To Create a Healthy Posture Habit For Life – Posture Hack #5

Think about a successful habit from your own life. Choose anything – Do you meticulously look after your nails? Groom them, cut them, file them and paint them? Are you an expert ironer? Are your shirts always perfect when you leave the house? Do you have the habit of making school lunches for your children every day? Do you write your emails from 9-10am every morning at work and never miss that time slot? I know you have at least one successful habit – What is it?

The point is, that if you’ve been successful creating a habit in one area of your life, then you already have what it takes to create another habit.

Good Posture is A Habit

The usual way of thinking is that good posture (remember that means good body symmetry) seems to be some privilege bestowed upon the lucky few with good genes or super motivation, but I tell you, that just isn’t true.

So, if good posture is largely a habit; then it is something we can learn to improve. Charles Duhigg (author of ‘The Power of Habit’) says this:

Typically, people who exercise, start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.

The Neurology of Habits

Habits are automatic behaviours that we no longer need to think about or make a choice about. We don’t struggle with the decision to take a shower or brush our teeth; we just do it and we trust that we will always do these things, because they are habits.

Habits are neurologically wired into our brains because we have done them over and over again, over very many hours, days, months and years. So when we create a new habit called good posture, we need to hard-wire it into the brain.

Obviously, changing some habits can be more difficult than others, because change takes time and requires repeated experiments. But once you understand how habits work, you gain power over them.

21 Days

Maxwell Maltz was a plastic surgeon in the 1950s when he began noticing patterns among his patients.

When Dr. Maltz would perform an operation — like a nose job, for example — he found that it would take the patient about 21 days to get used to seeing their new face. Maltz noticed the same pattern in arm or leg amputees; that the patient would sense a phantom limb for about 21 days before adjusting to the new situation.

These experiences prompted Maltz to think about his own behaviours when trying to make changes. He noticed that it also took himself about 21 days to form a new habit and wrote: 

These, and many other commonly observed phenomena tend to show that it requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to gel.

Whether or not new habits take 21 days, 30 days or 60 days to get wired into the brain is somewhat debateable,  but works for me personally. I like 21 days, because that feels reasonable to me.

So if you have created the environment (Hack #1), learned to play (Hack #2), made your goal ridiculously simple (Hack #3), have already started (Hack #4) you are ready to begin the next 21 days!

When it comes to creating a new healthy posture habit for life, I like to recommend doing some form of Posturecise daily for 21 straight days – including weekends!

Further Resources: Posturecise (Level 1) – How to create a healthy posture habit for life

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