After tracking 96 participants in creating a habit of their choosing, University College London researchers observed that some habits were established in as little as 18 days, but many habits took even longer- some even as long as 254 days. On average, it took 66 days to create a habit. (Source)
So, what was the difference between the habits that took 18 days to create and 254 days to create?
Some are easier than others!
It’s kind of obvious now that I say it, right? But it’s important to know if the habit you want to create is easy or hard before you start, because if you’re working on a hard habit, you need to bring a lot more strategy to the table or you’ll end up like the 92% of people who fail to stick to their New Year’s Resolutions.
Drinking more water, eating a piece of fruit with breakfast, flossing, writing a gratitude list every day, or always parking at the back of the parking lot are examples of habits that can take less time and willpower to create.
Many people find exercising, cooking healthier meals, and meditating to be difficult habits to establish. Internally, there can be a lot of negative self-talk about how much they don’t like these habits, how hard these habits are, or how they’ve tried to do it before and failed. These subconscious thoughts and fears undermine people’s efforts, and eventually, these internal conflicts lead to abandoning the new habit. Another obstacle to creating a hard habit is the amount of momentum built up doing it the old way, and changing that pattern can be really hard. And then there are just plain practical issues. These habits require a lot more time, energy, and planning, so when an obstacle like a busy schedule or an illness arises, it’s easy not to do the new habit.
And if you think changing your own habits are hard, try changing the habits that you share with other people. Our relationships are filled with habits, and we interact with people in predictable ways. How many times have you had that same old fight? Relationship habits can be especially difficult to change, because you’re dealing with your emotional baggage and patterns PLUS theirs!
The plain truth is that how long it takes YOU to create a new habit depends on you, on the habit you’re trying to form, on your motivation for starting it, how much pleasure you get from it, how much support you get from friends and family, and probably a host of other factors. The harder the habit, the longer you should expect it to take to really kick in.
When you decide to create a hard habit, focus on just that one habit. You’re going to need to bring all your resources and willpower and strategy to the table to be successful, and one of your most important tools will be social support and accountability. “In a 2-year clinical trial that randomly assigned participants to either Weight Watchers meetings or the self-help method, those who were assigned to Weight Watchers meetings lost and kept off significantly more weight. According to the researchers, there was a direct connection between the attendance at Weight Watchers meetings and weight-loss results”. The researchers believe that the meetings provided accountability and support that encouraged adherence to the program, and adherence to the program meant results.
We just wrapped up our very first Best Life Habits Boot Camp which was designed to provide that accountability and support, and the results have been amazing! Stay tuned for the next Boot Camp which will be launching in September. If you’ve been trying to create the habits you know will make you happier and healthier, and it’s been hard… if you keep trying and failing… Then stay tuned. The Best Life Habits Boot Camp may be just what you’ve been looking for.