How Long Does It Take To Form A Habit?

form a habit

Any time I have looked for information about how many days to form a habit, or creating a habit, I learn that it takes about 21 days. Today I listened to a discussion saying that after 21 days it’s hard not to do the new habit. It was actually stated, “you can’t not do it” (double negative = positive?).

21 days does not seem bad at all, especially when you think about how long you have struggled with something (or things) that you want to change. The problem I guess is that it’s hard to form new habits. But maybe it doesn’t have to be. Maybe we have to work on our desire more than what is required because we can find lots of information about how to do it – but we still have to ‘Just Do It’!!


Form a Habit


So we all have times in our lives where we intentionally want to change our behavior for the better and create new habits for ourselves. Maybe we have lots of things we want to change. It could be that we want to remember to take our vitamins every day. It may seem like a simple task and yet I hear people say that they forget to take them even though they know that they aren’t going to get the benefits of the nutrients if they sit in the bottle.

Maybe you want to get in the habit of eating healthier and drinking more water. Or it could be exercising more and taking the dog for a daily walk. It can be work related, family related, or spiritual.

Getting into the habit of doing something is often easier said than done. We seem to acquire bad habits without any effort, but getting into a “good” habit can be a little more challenging.

Let’s break it down into a three step process that makes it easy to follow until we’ve internalized the new behavior and made it a true habit – something we do automatically without having to think about, like brushing our teeth.


3 Steps to Creating New Habits


1.  Decide What You Want To Do

The first step is to decide what you want that new habit to be. Be as specific as possible.

Don’t just tell yourself you want to exercise more. Instead say something like “I will go for a 30 minute walk every single day”.

Deciding what your new habit will be and committing to when and how you’re going to do it, is half the battle.

2.  Remind Yourself To Get It Done

The next few days should be smooth sailing. You’re motivated and excited to get this done. Sticking to your new habit isn’t an issue. But a few days in you’ll notice that it’s easy to slip back into old habits.

Maybe it’s raining and you don’t really want to go out and walk. Or maybe your day just gets away from you.

This is when it’s important to have a daily reminder. Set an alert on your phone or add the new habit to your daily to-do list for a while. You can even ask a family member or friend to be your accountability partner.

3.  Make It Part Of Your Routine Until It Becomes A Habit

This is key to the process. It takes some time before a new behavior becomes a true habit. Until then, a routine will work to your best advantage. Even before the new behavior becomes automatic, a routine will help you get it done without having to spend a lot of willpower or relying on daily reminders.

Make that daily walk part of your after dinner routine, or change from grabbing a snack at the vending machine at work at 10:00 in the morning to packing a healthy snack. Remind yourself that you want to form this new habit and you are going to stick with it this time!

On Day 21 Congratulate yourself! But don’t stop now. Keep practicing the routine until it’s second nature and you’ll be well on your way to keeping your new good habit.

Today as I was researching how long does it take to make a habit, I also heard about something called Pavlok that helps you break bad habits; or I guess to ultimately form new habits (with the intent to lose the bad habits). It is a wristband that you wear and it might be scary to hear that it gives you a shock, as a sort of wake up call to help keep you on track. The developer offers another description to help you not be turned off from being shocked. He says that “Pavlok releases a mild electric stimulus” and “uses biofeedback mechanisms”. And that it feels more like a rubber band being snapped on your wrist. It was an interesting concept. What do you think about it? Would you need something that’s a little more extreme like this, in order to form a habit?


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