Research shows it takes at least 21 days to develop a new habit. The Shape team puts this to the test and shares the results!
“I clocked at least 8,000 steps daily” – ESTELLE LOW, 29, WRITER
I chose this healthy habit because… I stopped going for jogs and y oga classes regularly after having a baby, in order to spend time with her. My muscle mass had declined and my body fat percentage had gone up. Walking is the easiest way to get more active. Plus I own two ﬁtness trackers, so monitoring my steps was effortless.
Cultivating this habit for three weeks was… doable with changes to my routine. I was already averaging 4,000 to 5,000 steps daily. I then started taking the park connector route home instead of the bus, and the 2km distance allowed me to log 3,000 more steps. It helped that I’m addicted to Pokemon Go. I was more incentivised to walk since I could “hatch” my eggs and gain apartment and at MRT stations.
After the challenge, I learned that… it’s easy to clock 8,000 s teps just by making simple tweaks to my routine. It’s sustainable and I will continue to strive for more steps every day. I feel more energised after a walk, similar to after a run. Your advice for someone who w ants to develop this habit? Get an activity tracker. Being able to see your daily steps, distance and calories burned gives you a good idea of your activity level, and whether you need to ramp it up. Comfortable walking shoes are also important. Check out established brands, which are constantly coming up with chic designs without compromising on comfort and cushioning.
“I ate four servings of fruits and vegetables daily” – RAY TICSAY, 35, ART DIRECTOR
I chose this healthy habit because… I almost never meet the Health Promotion Board’s recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables, as I eat most of my meals out, and they’re usually meat-heavy. I also ﬁnd that many vegetables taste bland and boring.
Cultivating this habit for three weeks was… initially difficult, as I didn’t have anyone to watch my diet. By the second week, I got the hang of it and actually liked that I had more types of food to eat in each meal. By the third week, eating fruits and vegetables became part of my diet. The challenge then was making sure there was variety so that I didn’t get bored.
After the challenge, I learned that… making sure my body gets enough nutrients is my responsibility. Consuming more ﬁbre also keeps my bowel movements smooth.
Your advice for someone who wants to develop this habit? Start by eating the veggies you like. If you get full quickly, having fruits in the morning instead of after meals makes it easier to meet the recommended intake. Make sure to have a variety of fruits and vegetables so that you don’t give up on this habit.
“I did meditation” – LANA NGUYEN, 26, DESIGNER
I chose this healthy habit because… meditation has long been pr oven to reduce stress, increase self-awareness and strengthen emotional intelligence. Since I constantly feel overwhelmed by the hectic pace of life, it has always been on my to-do list.
Cultivating this habit f or three weeks was… surprisingly effortless. I started with guided meditation for 10 minutes daily with the Headspace app and progressed to doing so without guidance by the second week. One of the most useful tips I learned was to imagine that I was driving on a highway and all my thoughts were billboards I passed. This assisted me in gradually detaching myself from my emotions and thoughts, and eventually obtaining peace of mind. The third week coincided with a holiday in Western Australia, so I had the pleasure of meditating in scenic locations like Cottesloe Beach. The sound of the waves was incredibly soothing.
After the challenge, I learned that… meditation is a habit w orth keeping. The practice has been transformational. I felt improvement in the quality of my sleep almost instantaneously. Since then, my mind has become more peaceful too.
Your advice for someone who w ants to develop this habit? Download the Headspace app if you’re a beginner. It is easy to navigate, and you only need to start with 10 minutes of meditation a day.
“I went completely makeup-free” – DAWN CHEN, 25, WRITER
I chose this healthy habit because… I never leave home without drawing my eyebrows and applying blusher, and wanted to do a skin detox. As a beauty writer, I also always stress the importance of skin health, and wanted to walk the talk.
Cultivating this habit for three weeks was… hard at ﬁrst because I know how pale I look without colour. It felt weird showing up at the office barefaced. Even my colleagues thought I looked tired! By the second week, I was glad to have an extra 10 minutes of sleep since I didn’t have to put on any makeup. I dutifully stuck to my daily masking habit so that my complexion looked brighter. The ultimate challenge came in the third week when I had two weddings to attend, one of which was for a fellow beauty writer. I got a bit nervous during the photo taking, and kept wondering if I looked ﬁne. I was tempted to slick on lip gloss, but am proud to say I didn’t – and survived.
After the challenge, I learned that… I’m more conﬁdent about going out with les s makeup. I can give up the blusher daily, but I think I’d still like to have some eyebrows. I’m also impressed by how much clearer, healthier and smoother my complexion became.
Your advice for someone who wants to develop this habit? Go cold turkey and use the time to step up your skincare routine. Be meticulous about what you use, and be consistent with your masking. You’ll deﬁnitely see results. No matter how noncomedogenic your makeup is, it can still clog your pores.
“I gave up sugary drinks and only drank water” – CLAIRE ANG, 19, INTERN
I chose this healthy habit because… sugary drinks are my weakness. I love bubble tea, teh peng and ﬂavoured lattes, each of which contain at least 200 “empty” calories. I used to easily consume two cups of these drinks per day.
Cultivating this habit for three weeks was… challenging at times. I w as not used to starting my mornings without caffeine, and felt lethargic during the day. I tried to avoid foods that would make me crave a drink after, such as fast food. Grocery shopping was the worst, as I could only look at the wide variety of drinks available. By the third week, I became used to drinking water. Still, I was looking forward to the end of the challenge.
After the challenge, I learned that… abstaining from s weetened beverages curbed my cravings for them. I wouldn’t cut myself off from sweetened drinks entirely, but I will limit my intake of them.
Your advice for someone who w ants to develop this habit? If you’re craving sweet drinks, try eating fruits. It helps because they’re sweet and refreshing. My favourite go-to is frozen blueberries. If you need caffeine, try eating dark chocolate. I searched for foods that would keep me alert and dark chocolate worked best.
“I started my day at 6.30am” – ZARELDA MARIE GOH, 36, EDITOR
I chose this healthy habit because… several studies have c orrelated waking up early with positive traits. Early risers are said to be proactive, healthier and more optimistic.
Cultivating this habit for three weeks was… tougher than I thought. E ven though I wake up between 7am and 7.30am daily, shifting the time up wasn’t easy. The ﬁrst week was a failure. Thankfully I was on an Ayurvedic retreat during the second week [read about it on pg 30] and had to wake up at 6.30am to start the programme. In Ayurveda, they advocate waking up before the sun rises as they say it balances the mind and body. There were morning activities during the trip, such as hiking and yoga, so there was a purpose in rising early too. After the trip, I aimed to keep this habit on weekdays only. I cut out the use of gadgets, as the light given off by them keeps you awake.
After the challenge, I learned that… waking up early made me feel a lot better all round. I could take my time to go about my morning routine. I felt calmer, and the feeling often lasted throughout the day. I want to maintain rising early.
Your advice for someone who wants to develop this habit? Going to bed early is vital, as you shouldn’t compromise on sleep. Also, the deepest and most regenerative snoozing occurs between 10pm and 2am. Sleep is more superﬁcial after 2am.