The question of how long it takes to form a habit is a question most people ask. While you may have heard figures like 21 days, 30 days or even 7 days a recent study done in the University of London suggests it could take up to 66 days or even longer. But it depends…...
The Science Behind Habit Formation
Research by University College London looked at the automaticity of habits and how long it takes to form a new habit. The study involved 96 volunteers who were given the choice of carrying out an eating, drinking, or activity behaviour at the same time every day for twelve weeks. The results showed a wide variety of outcomes, with the average time being 66 days. The range was from 18 to 254 days.
Factors Influencing Habit Formation
- Individual Differences: Some people naturally have a higher propensity for discipline and routine, which can accelerate habit formation.
- Complexity of the Habit: Simpler habits like drinking a glass of water every morning are easier to establish than complex ones like a detailed workout routine.
- Environment: Your surroundings can either support or hinder your new habit.
- Mindset: A positive mindset can be a powerful ally in habit formation.
Practical Steps for Habit Formation
- Start Small: Begin with an easy enough habit to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
- Be Consistent: Consistency is key to making a habit stick. Chose a habit to focus on that you will do every day rather than one that you do twice a week.
- Track Your Progress: Use the habit-tracker in the Lifeflow Planner to keep your momentum.
- Celebrate Small Wins: Reward yourself for milestones reached to keep the motivation high.
A Note on the 21-Day Idea
Let’s look a bit deeper at the 21 day idea. The idea that it takes 21 days to form a habit originated with Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon who sometime in the 1950s, noticed that it took his patients about 21 days to adjust to their new faces or get used to the absence of a limb. He wrote about this observation in his book Psycho-Cybernetics, but his words were misinterpreted to suggest that any habit takes 21 days to form. This was not his intention, but the idea caught on and has been repeated ever since.
From the research done we can see that the time it takes to form a habit can vary significantly depending on various factors, including the individual and the complexity of the habit. So while the 21-day idea is not a definitive rule it is a good starting point for some.
So how long does it take to form a habit is not a one-size-fits-all answer. The key is to start, be consistent, and adjust as you go along. After all, you are not starting a new habit for one month or one year, the idea is you are making a habit part of your life, part of the new version of you.