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How long does it really take to form a habit?

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Forming a habit is a classic life hack: YYou want to change something in your life, so you insert a new action in your daily routine. Pretty soon, it becomes automatic, that’s it sleep, anyway, and then that part of your life takes care of itself. So how long does it take to form a habit? Despite what you may have heard, it is not necessarily 21 days.

What happens in the first 21 days?

The idea that a habit takes 21 days to form came from a surgeon, Maxwell Maltz, who observed that it seemed to take about three weeks for a person to get used to their new body after an operation. such as amputation or plastic surgery, James Clear write. (Having been through a few minor surgeries, I remember the pain and swelling taking two to three weeks to subside long enough that I’m not constantly thinking about the fact that he just had surgery – I have to wonder if that’s related ).

The surgeon’s idea was that it takes 21 days for people to dissolve and re-form a “mental image” of themselves. This is not backed up by research, it’s just a gut feeling of a kind. But I think it stuck because it fits a lot of our experiences.

Let’s say you want to get up early to exercise first thing in the morning. good of grade you can do it once. But how do you make it a habit?

when i was at it In this situation, becoming a morning jock despite not being a morning person, I forced myself to commit to a full week before I even allowed myself to complain or adjust my plan. I had to get up at 6 am every day, five days in a row, non-negotiable. I enjoyed having a break on the weekend, and then the second week was much easier. By the end of the third, this was really my new normal.

One day it may be a fluke. One or two weeks is a period of time that we have been through before, and we can handle an interruption of that time (imagine a vacation, or crisis time one week before a work deadline). Three weeks, on the other hand, is almost a month. (Note that 30 days is also a common time frame for self-improvement challenges.) In this period of time, he has done it several times and has probably overcome some interruptions or obstacles (like the weekend) and returned to normal. This is probably a good rule of thumb for a long enough period of time to feel like “real life”. But that doesn’t mean it’s enough.

what happens after 21 days?

There has been research that has attempted to measure how long it takes for a habit to become truly automatic. For example, This studio asked the participants to choose a habit and link it to something they do once a day (for example, “eat a fruit with lunch”). The study lasted 12 weeks. Some of the participants felt that their new habit was automatic after just a few weeks; many others were not yet there at the end of the study. The researchers concluded that most people would form an automatic habit anywhere between two and eight months… based on a model they calculated would only apply to 62% of participants. Hardly a universal rule of human behavior, even with the wide range of possibilities.

A 2012 revision looked at several others Dear and concluded that it would make more sense to tell people to wait at least 10 weeks for their new habit to become automatic, but it also helps a lot to know that any habit becomes easier the longer you do it.

How to think of behavior change in stages instead of days

Setting time-based commitments can be a helpful tool, like getting through the first week before changing plans or using your new moisturizer every day until the bottle is empty. But another school of thought holds that behavior change is best described by stages than by calendar dates.

In this idea, there are stages before starting the new action, such as researching your options and trying out the behavior before committing to making it a habit. But even after starting the new behavior, the work continues. It’s not as simple as “do this forever”.

In the action stage, you’ve started the habit, but it’s not automatic yet and you may not be convinced that it’s really going to continue. At this stage, you can do things like:

  • Remember your motivation to do it. For example, stick your reminder card for your next dentist appointment on your bathroom mirror, so you don’t just remember that you should floss, but also why you want to floss.
  • Restructure your environment to give you clues and support.. For example, if you want to run every morning, take your shoes off the night before. and ask your spouse to ask how your career went when you get back.
  • Build self-efficacy celebrating your little victories. This could mean marking off days on a calendar when you did something, but it could also mean working towards milestones (like total number of miles driven) or benchmarking your progress (maybe you used to do your daily push-ups with the hands on a chair, but now you can do them on the floor).
  • Plan ahead for how you’ll stick with your habit even when they interrupt you (More on that in a minute).

Once you’ve built up some momentum, you’ll be on the maintenance scenery. You’re getting into the habit, and maybe it’s starting to feel automatic, or at least more of a part of your life than it used to be. In this stage you may need to do a few things like the following:

  • Reevaluate your plan. Does running every morning still work for you? It might make more sense to stretch out some of the runs and designate other days for rest, yoga, or strength training.
  • Think about the obstacles you might face. If you go on vacation, will you continue the habit? If you end up falling off the wagon for whatever reason, how will you get back on?
  • Make sure your motivation is something that will continue to work for you.. For example, if you are highly motivated to keep a streak on the calendar, the real test will come when you inevitably break your streak. At that time, there has to be something. other than the streak that keeps you at it. This is often something intrinsic: Yyou like being the person who flosses every day. You are excited to sign up for a race with your running buddy. He is happy that his cholesterol has gone down because of the way he has been eating..

Developing a habit is not a matter of effort until you reach a magic number of days. It is a process that requires effort all the time, even after five years. Habits are work, but those that last are those in which the work is worth it.

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