How Long Does it Take to Form a New Habit?
With New Year’s resolutions in full swing, you may be wondering when your new ‘routine’ of healthier eating or exercise may actually become routine. One of the persistent rumors floating around on the web says that it takes 21 days to break a bad habit — or form a good one. We dug into the research to see if there’s any truth to this idea… or if it’s just another myth that needs busting.
According to Psychology Today, a habit is a behavior that becomes automatic and is neurologically hard-wired in your brain. Brushing your teeth upon waking up and drinking a cup of coffee every morning are habits. Breaking bad habits can be hard. Often it requires altering your environment or avoiding cues that can trigger unwanted behaviors. To be successful, you’ll need to exert your willpower and and continue to do this day after day until the behavior becomes automatic.
Popular self-help gurus claim that it will take 21 days to form a new healthy habit – or break a bad one. The truth is, there is no magical timeframe for making lasting changes. Some people can pick up a new habit, like eating more veggies, in just a few days. Others may take weeks, months, or they may never be able to change course. One recent study in the European Journal of Social Psychology looked at behavior change found that making a new habit, like eating a piece of fruit daily, took an average of 66 days. However there were wide variations. The authors found the adaptation time was a function of the specific habit, as well as the individual. If you’re trying something new, like daily exercise, give yourself time to make it a routine. It may not happen overnight – or in 21 days!