All processes take time.
Just like kids learning to walk for the first time, or when you learnt to drive, all processes take time. And, just like any process that needs to be learnt, “learning” a new habit also takes time. But it’s harder than just learning something new. Your body, your mind, your daily routines are all engrained in the old habit, so that has to be “unlearnt” and replaced with the new habit – the one you prefer to have in your life.
And that can take longer than you think.
It takes longer than we may think
A habit is your body’s automatic response to a trigger in your surroundings. And it’s learnt this automatic response from repeating the same action day after day.
Those daily habits are very handy – they become automatic programs, which means that we don’t have to think about them consciously every time we do them.
You don’t have to think about how to tie your shoes, or how to brush your teeth. These have been automated in your brain and body. Similarly, you don’t have to think about collapsing on the couch at the end of the day, or reaching for bread in the supermarket, or checking out what’s happening on your social media apps.
By now, these are automatic programs that run with very little conscious, deliberate thought.
That’s useful because it makes them more efficient. But it also makes them harder to undo, and replace with something we would rather do.
If you’ve been trying to beat an old habit and you’re starting to get frustrated, you may be wondering how long it should really take to kick that habit for good.
It takes longer than we thought it did
Psycho-Cybernatics, a pop psychology book from the 60’s, popularised the idea that it takes 21 days. 21 days for a new habit to form.
But, a recent study published in The European Journal of Social Psychology found it took on average 66 days to form a habit. The actual time ranged from as little as 18 days, and as long as 254 days (a huge range!).
There’s a few things to learn from this:
- The 21 days that we previously thought, is wrong
- The range it does take seems to be quite large – and different for each person
- Having a specific time frame in mind can be disheartening – we just don’t know that it’s realistic for us, or for the habit that we’re trying to unlearn and the new one we’re trying to learn.
What you should remember
Habits are formed out of repetitive actions that eventually become automatic behaviours, part of your daily routines without any thought.
Our brain and body requires repeated action, over time, to break an old habit, and replace it with the new one.
This takes energy and effort, over time. This may take on average 66 days (but could happen a lot faster, or a lost slower than that).
But, breaking a bad habit is worth the effort. Once you have broken it, it’s unlikely you will find yourself slipping back.
You’ll know that you have beaten a habit and replaced it with the habit that you want, when you don’t have to think about doing the new habit (and, you would now have to think about deliberately doing the old habit). In other words, you’ve successfully made the new habit, the one you want, to be an automatic part of your brain-body routine.
2017: The Year You Get Healthier
Be patient with yourself. Make it easy to win, and hard to lose. And, build on your wins.
Many people find one easy, simple step to take towards getting their health back in 2017 is to book in for their chiropractic appointment again.
If having more flexibility, feeling better, having better posture, ridding your body of the stress, strains and tensions that are holding you back from having a good life is important to you, come in and see if we can help you achieve your health resolutions for 2017.