Does it only take 21 days to create a new habit? No, and yet because it was quoted as such, that’s the number that stuck. Sadly, it can take less than 21 days to form a bad habit. And sometimes, no matter how hard we try; it takes much longer to form a new habit.
So how long does it take to create a new habit? The answer is between 18 to 254 days according to Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London. It also depends on your mindset, and on how much of a change it is from what you are currently doing. If it’s your habit to eat carbs at night and you switch to low carb snacks, it’s probably not going to take you very long to create a new habit. Giving up carbs altogether or cutting out all sugar, on the other hand, might take longer.
When people ask that question, what they want to know, is how long they have to tough it out before it gets easier. Is there a light at the end of the tunnel when they don’t have to try so hard anymore? In other words, when will this new behavior become automatic?
While it will be different from one person to the next and even from one habit to the next, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- It’s easier to make a new habit than get rid of an old one.
Checking your email every 2 minutes or snacking late at night, for example, is harder to change.
- If possible, replace an old habit with a new one. For example, if you want to give up coffee, brew a cup of herbal tea in the morning and other times when you would normally reach for your cup of Joe.
- Habits form faster if you stick to the same time and environment each day. For example, instead of going for a walk whenever, keep your sneakers next to the door and schedule your walk every day at 6 pm, right after dinner.
Also helpful, is a constant reminder of why you’re trying to change your behavior. Remind yourself every day that you’re exercising, so your body stays strong, so you can hike or swim in the ocean. Or, put a picture where you’ll see it often, to remind you that you’re making frugal habits so you can one day purchase your dream home. Keep the reason you’re changing in your view and then be prepared to stick it out.
It will take some time to make new habits and replace old ones, but in the end, it will be well worth it.
Blessings and Peace,
Clear, James. “How Long Does It Actually Take to Form a New Habit? (Backed by Science).” James Clear. n.p. n.d., Web. 01 Feb. 2016. <http://jamesclear.com/new-habit>.
Dahl, Melissa. “Think It’ll Take 21 Days to Make Your Resolution a Habit? Try Tripling That.” TODAY.com. n.p., 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 01 Feb. 2016. <http://www.today.com/health/think-itll-take-21-days-make-your-resolution-habit-try-2D11826051>.
Gardner, Ben D. “Busting the 21 Days Habit Formation Myth.” Health Chatter The Health Behaviour Research Centre Blog RSS. University College London, 29 June 2012. Web. 01 Feb. 2016. <https://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/hbrc/2012/06/29/busting-the-21-days-habit-formation-myth/>.