Have you ever tried to get rid of a habit? Or start a new one? It’s difficult, although starting a new bad habit is a bit easier… You have something sweet instead of lunch. The first time it’s okay, it’s a temptation and one time is no time, right? But then you do it again, a second time, and it’s already developing into a habit. You have a beer with your dinner because you worked so hard that day, next day you worked hard again and deserved a beer again, and the following day you know you’ve already had beer with your dinner and you kind of liked it, so why not today again? It’s a bad habit that we should try to resist.
And getting into a good habit is more difficult… I’ve been thinking a lot about habits lately, so I sat down and looked into it.
I heard for many many years ago that making a new habit takes 18 days. I liked that number, even but uneven, and it seemed fair. Now when I searched it on the Internet I found more numbers and they all differed from 18-245 days. The old myth is that it takes 21 days and this was stated by Dr Maxwell Maltz, who during the 1960s made a study on amputated limbs and how long it would take for the amputee to adjust to the loss of the limb. And yes, that might be true for those cases and for those people, but I think creating a habit is a bit more complex than this and that it varies between people.
I found another study by Lallet et al. (2009) where they had recruited 96 people to run 15 minutes a day and eat a fruit with their lunch every day. They focused on when the action was made automatically every day without thinking about “having to do it”. The average of the participants did the daily routines automatically after 66 days, but in this study the numbers differed from 18 to 245 days.
But of course it’s possible to develop a new good habit earlier. I’ve been going to the gym for two months now and it is a part of my lifestyle now. It has been it for a while, maybe even after only a few weeks, but it might have been my mental knowledge of a habit being created in 18 days that affected me. I have another friend who started go running with her brother not long ago. Last week they went every day, but on Friday she got a swollen achilles and couldn’t do anything over the weekend, not even on Monday morning. She told on Monday that she felt weird not doing any exercise and that she missed doing it. And that was only one (1) week!
What are your habits? Do you have any bad habits that you want to get rid of? Do you have any habits that you would want to get?