“Depending on what they are, our habits will either make us or break us. We become what we repeatedly do.” – Sean Covey
In most cases, becoming successful doesn’t happen by accident. Achieving a goal or a life-long dream requires dedication, effort, and forming habits. This includes whether it’s a New Year’s resolution or a lifestyle change you want to make. Let’s take a goal like losing weight, toning up, or running a marathon. What you’re aiming for isn’t something you can achieve with simple repetition of a task. Instead, you are looking to develop a habit you instill in your life to help you realise your goal.
So, how long does it take to form healthy habits? Also, how long will it take to adopt a new habit? Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at UCL, published a study in 2009 entitled ‘How long does it take to form a habit’ where she found something interesting. On average, it takes 66 days for a habit to become ingrained. This is longer than most people expect. In fact, the more hard work it took to instill the habit, the longer it took. She analysed a group of study participants who adopted hobbies as simple as drinking water with lunch. The study also looked at going for a 15-minute run every day at the same time. After 12 weeks, the participants were assessed to discover how long it took for the new behaviour to become automatic.
The results are intriguing, to say the least. The average amount of time to form healthy habits was 66 days. The shortest was 18 days. The longest that it took for a habit to still not be second nature was 254 days.
What does this show us? Well, it signifies that the key to adopting a new behaviour is to keep at it! People who exercise find it challenging to stay consistent. This is true even for a short period of time, such as four weeks. Changes in diet or training can be challenging to adjust to. Forming healthy habits a habit requires dedication. Our brains are hardwired to take shortcuts and do what comes naturally to us. While you are telling yourself you want to create new habits, your mind is busy working out how it can revert to your old behaviour patterns.
It’s important to remember why you made the pledge in the first place. When, for example, your subconscious tells you to skip that gym session or eat a pizza, you can stay in control and do what you know you need to. You now know how to form healthy habits and achieve your goals!