Have you ever tried to make a resolution or a new healthy habit and got frustrated because it wouldn’t stick? Our personal trainer, Zach BeMiller, claims that “holding yourself accountable until that routine sticks is very challenging [and] may feel exhausting”. However, he claims that after an adjusting period, the new action starts to become easier and forms into a habit. This new action may be to wake up at 5:30 in the morning for a job, running for 15 minutes before lunch every day, or, as Zach claims, simply to “call back home to mom and dad to let them know how you are doing”. This post will dive into best practice in habit formation and the timeline you should expect in route to creating a version of you that you envision.
Neuroscientists have found that habits activate the basal ganglia part of the brain whereas decision-making is done in the prefrontal cortex. However, once a behavior becomes automatic, the decision-making part of the brain relaxes. Furthermore, habits can be so strong that an individual with an inability to form new memories can still develop new habits.
According to the book, The Power of Habits, there are four steps to creating a lasting habit. This includes an initial cue, a craving, the response, and a reward which eventually leads to the next cue again. One example of a habit you may have is the action of brushing your teeth every morning. First is the cue: waking up and getting out of bed. The craving: the tingling and bubbling that the toothpaste creates (nothing to do with the actual cleaning). The response: brushing the teeth. Lastly, the reward of being satisfied with the toothpaste and the fresh mouth feel afterward.
The University College London ran an experiment with 96 individuals on how long it takes from an action to become a habit. They found that, on average, it takes a person 66 days to have a new behavior become automatic. Furthermore, it took people anywhere from 18 days to 254 days to keep their new habit. The variation tended to happen from the difficulty of the new habit. Starting to drink a bottle of water with lunch proved to be much easier to habituate than to run for 15 minutes before dinner.
Therefore, it is seen that creating a habit can be hard at the beginning and can take a varied amount of time. However, this should not be a discouragement because there is no reason to get down on yourself if your habit does not settle quickly. Also, if you make a mistake and skip a day, it will not hurt your process. Instead, allow yourself to make a mistake and create strategies to get back on track. Furthermore, embracing the process will strengthen your habit along with reinforcing why you wanted the habit in the first place.
Clear, James. “How Long Does It Take to Form a Habit? Backed by Science.” James Clear, 13 July 2018, jamesclear.com/new-habit.
Duhigg, Charles. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. The Random House Publishing Group, 2014.
Miltimore, Jon. “How Long Does It Take to Form Good Habits?: Jon Miltimore.” FEE Freeman Article, Foundation for Economic Education, 25 Feb. 2017, fee.org/articles/how-long-does-it-take-to-form-good-habits/.