The Two-Day Rule

I was reading Gretchen Rubin's blog on happiness (The Happiness Project) and I found something interesting in her post about exercise. She talks about the benefits of daily exercise. As a disclaimer, let's just be clear that I'm not advocating doing exercise every day, unless that's what you want to do. I think everyone needs to find the right amount, frequency and type of exercise for them – remember to be your own expert. But what struck me about her list of tips to keep exercise was one that said: Never skip exercising for two days in a row.

This rule could be helpful, I thought, for many things, especially when you're trying to start any new habit. I think it's still up for debate how many days it takes for a new habit to become ingrained, I've heard everything from 21 to 60 days. Regardless, it takes time. And the perfectionist in me – and in all of us, I think – can often sabotage our best intention to change habits. For example, if you've decided to say, get up earlier in the morning (who would do that, I wonder?). You might be successful at it for say, three days, and then, you miss a day and run into the all-or-nothing conundrum. Now that I've missed a day, you say to yourself, what exactly is the point?

But that's where the two-day rule is fabulous. If you miss a day, you say, oh well, I missed a day, but what's really important is that I don't miss two days. And so, voila (!) you get back on the horse.

It seems to me like it could also work for something you're trying to do at any regular interval. Let's say you're trying to exercise three times a week or eat vegetables/fruit three times a day. You just don't let yourself skip more than once. I didn't have fruit with my breakfast, so I better eat some with lunch, says the little cricket on your shoulder. Instead of giving up when you'd failed to do something, you just keep going. As one of my friends says, it's never to late to stop going down "that road".

I feel like I get caught up in the all or nothing mentality a lot. If I'm procrasinating about getting something done, instead of just getting on with it, I'll start getting angry at myself that I haven't started it sooner. What a waste of time. The two-day rule is a good antidote. It doesn't allow you to keep going down that dangerous path, but instead, just turning around. Because after all, what's better – exercising every other day or not exercising at all?

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