How To Form A New Habit

Where Do We Begin?

We've all got that one thing we'd love to change (or start). But how many times have you told yourself you were going to study harder, go to the gym after work, or get up in the morning to go for a run? And how often did you actually do it?

Well, it might not be entirely your fault. Because habits are hard to make, and you need to give them time to set if you want to see permanent changes in your life.

Why Are Habits So Tough To Change?

Humans are, at our cores, creatures of instinct and habit. We find something that works for us, and we keep doing it. Unfortunately, even when our habits have become a hindrance rather than a help, we still want to keep doing them. If we get stressed and want to eat, we still want to do that even if our metabolism can't handle that coping method anymore. If we want to smoke after a good meal, that response has been programmed into us. It's our response to stimulus, and those responses take conscious effort to change.

Because we still remember when these habits were beneficial, or necessary, to get us through the day. Back when they helped us, rather than hurt us.

Deep down, we're all Pavlov's dogs. We associate the bell with food, so we start salivating. The major difference between us and the Russian pooches, though, is that we can recognize our habits, and take steps to alter them.

How Long Does It Take To Break (Or Set) A Habit?

This is the age-old question people have been trying to answer forever. Unfortunately, according to the Foundation for Economic Education, there is no one, right answer. Everyone is different, and we each work on a different scale when it comes to how long forming habits takes.

With that said, there are some things we know.

Generally speaking, it takes about 66 days (or a little over two months) of regular, concerted effort to set a new habit. However, that varies based on individual, and on the complexity and difficulty of the habit they're trying to make. Something as simple as drinking a glass of water at a certain time of day became a habit for some participants in 20 days. On the other hand, morning exercise hadn't become a habit by 80 days for others.

So while there is a general timeline, it's important to remember that some habits will take longer for you. Others, though, might set in less than a month simply because of your determination to make that change. So don't worry if you hit that two-month mark and it isn't an instinct yet... you'll get there.

Jennifer Silvershein