30 Day Challenges: Do They Work?

Benefits of Month-Long Challenges and Tips for Success

Hero Images/Getty Images

While jump-start challenges have been around for far longer than the internet, the rise of social media has provided a perfect venue for the creation, sharing, and engagement in challenges that last for 30 days. These challenges promise a simple starting point and a fool-proof path to a new life with healthy new habits. They can be connected to a wide variety of health behaviors, productivity habits, or other simple changes that can lead one to a better life.

Types of 30-Day Challenges

There are several types of 30-day challenges that have become popular lately. They mainly fall into two categories: the challenges that build upon themselves and the challenges that offer you something unique each day, often with increasingly challenging days.

The first type of challenge helps you to build a particular skill or skill set by becoming better at it with practice. For example, a 30-day plank challenge is a popular challenge that begins with a 10-second stretch of the plank exercise on the first day of the challenge working up to increasingly long planks that culminate in a three-minute plank on the last day of the challenge.

How Long Does Change Take?

How long does it take to make a lasting change? Many articles on change report that it takes exactly two weeks to make a change become a habit. Others say it takes exactly 28 days, or even 30. It helps to know what the science says.

Research doesn't identify a specific number of days that definitely leads to lasting change in every person, for every new habit, and every situation. There are different timeframes based on how difficult the change is to make, how motivated a person is to make it, and how much effort is required for the new habit to become cemented into the mind. Nonetheless, researchers have tried to get a clearer picture of what a general timeframe might look like for most people and most changes. 

Several studies have been conducted to track how people change and how long these changes last. One study found that a new habit takes anywhere from two weeks to two months to take root, meaning that if you go through the effort to incorporate it into your life for this amount of time and practice on a regular basis, you become used to including this as part of your life and, rather than having to work past inertia to begin the habit, it would actually require more effort to change the habit and stop doing it.

Another set of studies has found that we make changes in steps and that once we get past the point of thinking about making a change, it’s far easier to continue to live with a new habit. This research found that there is a distinct stage (the "pre-contemplation stage") that actually occurs before you even think actively about making changes, and the next stage involves thinking and planning but no actual observable change as far as taking on the new habit is concerned.

It's only in the next stage that the actual new habit is acquired. Interestingly, if the habit is dropped, this isn't considered a failure, but rather a predictable part of the whole process of change and even a specific stage of change if you don't give up trying; it's considered a part of the process of creating lasting change.

The 30-Day Challenge: Benefits and Tips for Success

So given the fact that completing a 30-day challenge isn’t a guarantee that a behavior will become part of your life, does this mean it’s not worth the effort to complete one? Not at all!

The benefit of the 30-day challenge is that it constitutes a great boost to get you started. It provides you with the momentum you need to get past your inertia and start changing your life around to accommodate the desired change with actual behavior change. It also allows you to start seeing some results so you’ll have the motivation to continue your new habits for the long haul.

If you have others trying the challenge along with you, it can provide you with the added momentum of a supportive partner or group with the same goals, which can be wonderful for maintaining stamina and motivation. The "challenge" aspect allows for friendly competition or a "we're all in this together" sense of camaraderie. All of these things can help you to get moving and stay moving. For these reasons alone, a 30-day challenge can be an excellent way to jump-start your success for any changes you want to make.

The key is to find a challenge that's in line with a change that you're ready and willing to make now, even if it's hard work by the end of the month. It's also important to remember that if you stray from the challenge, you can recommit at any time, either by restarting your challenge at the day where you "catch yourself" or by starting from Day 1 and working through from the beginning with a fresh start, depending on your circumstances.

Finally, it's important to look at the entire challenge and be sure it's in line with where you ultimately want to take yourself. For example, just as you shouldn't start a money-saving challenge that has you socking away $2000 by the end of the month if you only make that in a week. You shouldn't begin a workout challenge that requires levels of exercise that exceed what you feel is safe, healthy, or desirable for your situation and goals. 

Popular 30-Day Challenges

Now that we've examined the basics of these challenges, here are a few excellent challenges you may want to try, followed by one that can help you to maximize your happiness levels, minimize stress, and generally take your mind to the next level.

  • 30-Day Quick Start Exercise Plan for Beginners: If you're looking to start a fitness plan, this one is an excellent option for those who are new to workouts. It starts simply and doesn't push you too far, but keeps you motivated through an entire month. It's created by a fitness expert and intended for beginners who would like a challenge that will get them working out every day.
  • 30-Day Yoga Challenge: Here's a wonderful yoga-based challenge. It's perfect if you're looking for a form of exercise that can calm your mind and body and build strength and flexibility.
  • 30-Day Pilates Challenge: This is a highly effective way to get started with a form of exercise that can work anywhere and tones your entire body. This incremental plan can help you to become fit enough to take things to a new level in a month, or stay with the exercises you learn along the way.

A 30-Day Challenge for Your Mind

Day 1: Think of one thing for which you are grateful. (Read about the benefits of gratitude.)

Day 2: Read a few jokes that make you laugh. (There are great benefits to laughter.) 

Day 3: Meditate for 3 minutes. (Here's how to get started with meditation.)

Day 4: Take a few minutes to talk to someone who makes you smile.

Day 5: Listen to a song that makes you happy. (Read about music therapy here.)

Day 6: Write about three things that make you happy in a gratitude journal.

Day 7: Watch a video online that may make you laugh.

Day 8: Meditate for 8 minutes.

Day 9: Connect with a good friend for a few minutes.

Day 10: Listen to some music that will make you happy.

Day 11: Write about three things you feel grateful for in your gratitude journal.

Day 12: Share some jokes with friends for a good laugh.

Day 13: Meditate for 13 minutes.

Day 14: Take a few minutes to connect with someone you care about.

Day 15: Play some music you love and dance to it for 15 minutes.

Day 16: Write about three things you feel grateful for in your gratitude journal.

Day 17: Watch a few funny videos to make yourself laugh.

Day 18: Meditate for 18 minutes.

Day 19: Take a few minutes to connect with someone you care about.

Day 20: Play some music you enjoy and just listen to it and relax.

Day 21: Write about three things you feel grateful for in your gratitude journal.

Day 22: Share some good jokes with a friend.

Day 23: Meditate for 23 minutes.

Day 24: Connect with a friend for a few minutes today.

Day 25: Listen to music that brings back great memories.

Day 26: Write about three things you feel grateful for in your gratitude journal.

Day 27: Watch something that you know will make you laugh.

Day 28: Meditate for 28 minutes.

Day 29: Take a few minutes to connect with someone you care about.

Day 30: Listen to some music that will make you smile.

Was this page helpful?