40 Days To Change Your Life

I'm sure you've heard of the long-held spiritual belief to the number 40, the philosophy behind it stating that it takes 20 days to break old habits and 20 days to form new ones. I'm interested in knowing if this is just a mystical number or whether there's any proof that 40 is associated with transformation. Because if it is, maybe we will be one step closer to lasting change?
06/29/2016 12:02 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

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I'm sure you've heard of the long-held spiritual belief to the number 40, the philosophy behind it stating that it takes 20 days to break old habits and 20 days to form new ones.

I'm interested in knowing if this is just a mystical number or whether there's any proof that 40 is associated with transformation. Because if it is, maybe we will be one step closer to lasting change?

As a coach, mentor and healer I work with women all the time seeking life and career changes, these are intelligent, ambitious, motivated women who are committed to making changes. Yet still many will openly admit, that without accountability, they fall at the first hurdle.

From my experience, both personally and professionally, it's easy to initiate change and start a new project, but what's the secret - and is there one - to lasting change?

I mean, how many diets have you started and gave up on, or exercise programs you never stuck to, or courses you bought and never finished, a new fashion trend you thought you'd wear, a weekly yoga practice, daily meditation, health supplementation or lifestyle changes. The list goes on.

Even things that are good for us, that we should be motivated to stick to long term, fall away and we step back into old habits. Habits were formed in the first place, so we should be able to change them right? (surely it can't be that hard!)

So, to help my clients (and myself because I really would like to commit to that weekly yoga practice instead of blaming the exhaustion that motherhood has created!), I'd love to find a solution.

I've been researching how long it takes to achieve successful, long-lasting change and transformation. And it appears that 40 days IS a magic number, with relevance across many of the world's religions from pre-enlightenment fasting to prayer formulas to post birth purification.

It would seem that 40 days isn't just a superstitious practice that permeates so many cultures, but in fact a period of time that allows transformation (renewal, repair, regeneration and rebirth) to occur.

There's a universal understanding the world over of the significance that 40 days holds, so I have briefly noted some practices here:

Kundalini Yoga is known as the yoga of awareness because it uses physical movement, breathing and sound to directly affect ones consciousness, develop intuition, increase self knowledge, and unleashes the unlimited creative potential that exists within every human being. In fact it's with Kundalini yoga you practice for 40 consecutive days to make or break habits.

Forty days has sacred relevance throughout religion. In Judaism, there's a mystical practice that says one who seeks an answer to their prayers should pray the same prayer request for 40 consecutive days. Forty days also has significance for Christians who fast for 40 days during Lent.

As with many other cultures and religions around the world, including Hinduism, Islam and Sikhism, in China a new mother is confined to her home for 40 days after she has given birth.
According to Chinese culture after the birth of a child the mother is at her weakest. She therefore stays at home whilst female members of the family take care of her and the child.

Similarly (if you are interested in spells) after giving birth a Zoroastrian woman remains secluded with her baby for 40 days in order to be purified from the impurities of childbirth. After the 40th day she takes a ritual bath that allows her to rejoin the wider community.

If we delve into psychology, researchers have found that personality can be changed through handwriting exercises over a period of 40 days. Although this is a bit worrying because my handwriting is getting worse with age, so not sure what that says about my psychological state!

And finally, in physiology, our skin cells on average take 40 days to renew, our red blood cells start dying from 40 days onwards and sperm count can be increased in 40 days.

Forty days holds both a mystical and practical significance to transformation in many areas of our life and cultures.

By knowing how long it takes to change behaviour and create new patterns, we are *somewhat* more in control of achieving lasting change and transformation. Or am I just kidding myself?

I'd love to hear from you: what do you think it takes and what are your secrets to making changes and creating new habits - and sticking to them? Please comment below.

Want to transform your life? Join the SoulMama challenge, a transformational journey of connecting to your heart and soul for 40 days of soul-fueled practices to be a conscious, calm, connected mama, click here.