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How Long Does It Really Take To Create A New Habit?

Personal Development

Let’s talk about forming new habits. We all have times in our lives where we intentionally want to change our behavior for the better and create new habits for ourselves. This could be getting in the habit of eating healthier, drinking more water, moving your body more often, building a meditation practice, and so on. It could be to benefit you emotionally, mentally, physically or spiritually …

There are so many areas in our lives that could be improved and made easier if we created new habits.

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

They say it takes 21 days to create a new habit. That’s kind of a weird idea though, isn’t it? Because we know it definitely doesn’t take that long to form a bad habit. It feels like no matter how hard we try, it takes us a lot longer to form a new habit than a bad one.

So, how long does it really take to create a new habit?

The answer … it depends.

It depends on your mindset, and it depends on how big of a change it is from what you are doing now. If you have a habit to eat a bowl of ice cream at night, and you switch from regular ice cream to a low sugar frozen yogurt version, it’s probably not going to take you very long to make that new habit. On the other hand, giving up ice cream altogether or cutting out all sugar might take you a lot longer.

When we ask the question, how long does it take, what we really want to know is how long do we have to tough it out before it gets easier. Is there a light at the end of the tunnel where we don’t have to try so hard anymore?

In other words, when will this new behavior become automatic? While it will be different from one person to the next and even from one habit to the next, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Three Steps to Creating Those New Habits

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.

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.

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.

Make It Part Of Your Routine Until It Becomes A Habit

Which brings us to the last step. It takes some time before a new behavior becomes a true habit. Until then, a daily 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 relying on daily reminders.

Make that daily meditation happen in the morning, make your evening exercise a walk after dinner or change from grabbing a snack at the vending machine at work at 10:00am in the morning to packing a healthy snack from home.

It must be intentional and purposeful. Prepare and give yourself time to allot for this new habit if necessary. You have to give yourself the right tools in order to be successful. It won’t happen unless you work for it. Decide to create the new habit, practice the routine until it’s second nature and you’ll be well on your way to forming a new good habit.

Don’t quit on yourself. You are worth it.

Cheryl McBride, Grit and Grace Meditation

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