You may think that by pledging to 30 Days of Biking you’re helping yourself form a healthy new habit. That may be the case — but it may take more (or less) than 30 days.
Heaven knows I’ve taken enough runs at it, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. I have a bike habit but it doesn’t arise directly from this commitment, although I encourage people every year to sign up. There just seems to be something about making a public commitment and setting a specific target.
Let’s get the first myth out of the way — there is no magic number of days for formation of a new habit (or breaking of an old one).
Observations by one doctor in 1960 about recovery from surgeries such as plastic surgery and limb amputation got turned into “Truth” about 21-day habit formation thanks to the speed with which a catchy idea propagates regardless of any underlying facts (and in the absence of research). Believe it or not, this happened even before we had the Internet or Twitter to help us.
So Why 30 Days?
- It does constitute enough repetition that you’re giving your brain the chance to form new connections even if you miss a day here or there. A couple of things can happen.
- If you’re doing something enjoyable you reinforce and accelerate the feel-good dopamine response.
- If it’s something you gotta do, like flossing, once it becomes a habit it doesn’t require willpower because it has just become part of your day.
- April, as the month before National Bike Month, provides a good opportunity to encourage people to ride when they might otherwise be inclined to postpone it. April has 30 days in the Gregorian calendar (that whole calendar thing has its own story).
- It has a really sweet origin story arising out of 30 Days of Yoga, which I find especially cool since this year my own #30DaysOfYoga commitment overlaps with #30DaysOfbiking for a bit.
- It caught on and now the hashtags are multiplying, so who am I to question this? #66DaysOfBiking isn’t nearly as catchy, although that’s the average number of days habit formation actually took in the 2009 study cited in several articles linked below.
Is 30 Days of Biking for You? How About One Day?
You may be someone who forms habits easily or someone who needs many more repetitions.
You may be trying to start a bike habit for its own sake, or to replace something negative.
You may already think you’re going to miss a day or two, so why even try?
No matter how you slice it you won’t make it to Day 30 unless you start with Day 1, so why not get rolling, just in case?
What They’re Saying Right Now on Twitter about #30daysofbiking
More Reading on Habit Formation
- Stop Expecting to Change Your Habit in 21 Days
- How Long to Form a Habit?
- This column will change your life: How long does it really take to change a habit?
- How Long Does it Actually Take to Form a New Habit? (Backed by Science)
- How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world (the 2009 study all these other articles cite, by Lally, van Jaarsveld, Potts and Wardle)