30-day challenges have been a popular way to promote healthy habits. They can be focused on adopting any positive behavior––reading books, expressing gratitude, completing one certain task every day, exercising––but the question behind the approach to promoting a healthy lifestyle is: Does it really work? Can you instill a new habit through a 30-day challenge and keep it long-term?
While the answer might be ambiguous, as only you can predict the effects after one month, what you certainly do get is an inspiration boost.
We’ve talked about the power and importance of habits, routines, and rituals in a number of our previous articles. The reason why we believe they’re so important is that they act as pillars of our day-to-day lives.
Routines are regularly followed sequences of actions that, after a certain period of repetition, become habits. Habits, on the other hand, are automated responses we perform as reactions to certain triggers in our environment. Every time the alarm clock starts ringing, we wake up. The act of waking up triggers other habits that form our morning routines.
Although habits are usually performed automatically, they first have to be learned or, in other cases, unlearned. This means that we are capable of making a conscious choice about our habits and work towards improvement and betterment.
However, this often takes more than just one month. There are multiple steps to this process from creating a vision, making the decision, setting an intention, and formulating achievable and smart goals, to coming up with a strategic plan, practicing the behavior, and repeating it consistently to master a new habit.
Research from 2010 revealed that it takes between 18 and 254 days for a habit to form, and it depends on the type of habit you’re instilling, the quality of your plan to make this habit stick, and its relevance to your life and current circumstances.
A 30-day challenge can, on the other hand, help you keep up your motivation and inspiration for the lasting change to happen. Completing the first month is more like building a momentum, celebrating the first milestone for the many more to come, and getting the proof that you can do it.
30-Day Challenges As Motivators
There are two main types of 30-day challenges: those based on introducing a new habit or behavior and those that require you to do a different thing each day.
Whichever type you pick, they can both inspire you to make a positive change in your life.
First, you need to pick a challenge. Ask yourself: What kind of change do you want to achieve?
- Do something bold, new, and interesting that you’ve never done before (travelling solo, finding a new hobby and turning it into business, scuba diving, speaking on public, etc.);
- Learn a new skill (sewing, foreign language, photography, painting, etc.);
- Instill a new habit or routine (healthy morning routine, gratitude journaling, regular exercise, diet change, etc.);
- Create something (a short film about your friends, a book of poems, flower pot, etc.);
- Something else.
Then, you need to make a conscious decision that you will work towards instilling that new behavior. This process is best to begin by setting a broad course of actions, or, as we like to say, by working on your intentions.
Intentions help you define what you genuinely want to achieve, how you will accomplish it, and how you can overcome challenges you find on your way towards a lifestyle change. Intentions make it easier to stay persistent with your decision to make a change, even when you fall off the tracks.
The next step is making a plan by setting clear and achievable goals. These help you create a step-by-step structure that makes it easier to move through the process of habit building.
The 30-day challenge can be a part of this process. For example, your first goal can be to complete a 30-day challenge on practicing gratitude every morning in your Five Minute Journal. With success usually comes the feeling of satisfaction, joy, and fulfilment. This way, you’ll be motivated to keep going.
Also, 30 days is a period neither short nor long. If you manage to complete the first month, you show yourself that you can do another 30 days, and then another, until the habit finally sticks.
How To Succeed
Persistence, consitency, and perseverance are crucial for making any new habit stick. But what if we’re not very persistent? A 2013 research paper revealed that one of the best strategies to make any new habit stick is to implement it into the existing routine. That’s because context plays an important role in adopting a new behavior, and environmental reminders help us automate the process.
For example, if you want to start a gratitude practice, it would be best if you could fit it into your existing morning and evening routine. Other examples would be to read a chapter from a book or a poem every morning while drinking coffee, add an abs challenge to your morning exercise routine, or meditate for 5 minutes after your evening shower as part of the twilight ritual.
Also, external support can do wonders for accountability and motivation. Have you noticed that people who decide to undergo 30-day challenges usually post about them on social media almost every day? Well, this does more than simply promote a new habit or the challenge itself. It helps the person doing a challenge persist and remain accountable, because people on social media react, comment, support, share, and get inspired themselves.
Finally, when it’s time to pick a challenge for you, make sure that it fits your goals and aspirations, and that it’s realistic to implement in your lifestyle. For example, if you’re choosing an exercise or diet challenge, make sure they’re compatible with your health situation.
30-day challenges can sometimes backfire if you take them too rigidly. If you’ve skipped a day, that’s fine, just keep going where you left off, or start over. If you take it too rigidly, you might set yourself up for failure or unnecessary stress.
30-day challenges should be about having fun while implementing something that’s good for you, not about beating yourself up.
30-day Challenges Suggestions
30-day gratitude challenge
30-day story-telling challenge
Tell/share/film/write a short story every day for a month.
30-day meditation challenge
Pick your favorite type of meditation, or do a combination each day for a more relaxed and mindful life.
30-day sustainability challenge
Avoid single-use plastic for a month. Do plastic-free groceries, recycle the waste, shop consciously. You can even go the whole month without buying anything (we’re talking about clothes, home decor, beauty products, that yet another notebook) unless it’s truly essential. Do you think you can do that?
30-day self-care challenge
Find and make time for yourself every day. This may be doing something that grounds your spirit before the workday starts, exploring spiritual practices, investing in a therapy, treating yourself to SPA or a massage, setting up a bedtime routine to sleep better, doing random acts of kindness, taking a vacation or the rest that you need, decluttering your space, and practicing positive affirmations.
30-day digital detox challenge
30-day musical challenge
Discover new songs and artists that inspire you each day of the challenge. Create and curate playlists for special occasions and share them with friends.
30-day water intake challenge
Decide to drink at least 8 glasses of water each day of the challenge. Use a water reminder app to help you get through the challenge. You will instantly feel better.
30-day steps challenge
Make at least 10.000 steps each day, or start at 6000 to reach 10.000 or 12.000 by the end of the challenge. Go for a walk after lunch or dinner, explore new neighbourhood or city, spend more time in nature.
30-day home-cooked meals challenge
Try to eat home-made meals for a month. You can experiment with the diets, discover new recipes, invite friends and family over for a brunch or a special dinner, and master your cooking skills.
30-day exercise challenge
Pick a 15-30 minute exercise that you can complete every single day by the end of the challenge. The exercise should be compatible with your current fitness level. Alternatively: start small and then progress by adding more repetitions every two or three days of the challenge, until you reach a certain number of repeats (50 abs/100 squats/etc.). This challenge also means signing up for a gym membership and actually going there. Consistently. Or going for a run every morning, or learning how to ride a bike. You name it.
30 day without sugar challenge
Stop eating industrial sugar for a month. The only allowed desert is fruit. Do you think you can make it?
If you’re looking for a fun and exciting way to instill a new habit, 30-day challenges can be a good start. While one month is not enough for a new habit or behavior to stick, it is a great way to get inspired and make a positive change in your life.
One way or another, keep in mind that anything is possible. Humans are great learners, and you always have an opportunity to change your life for the better.