A lot of the change that comes about through processes like psychotherapy (or even just reading a self-help article or book and trying to put those ideas into effect in your life) requires forming new habits. Habits of thinking differently, of reacting differently, of behaving differently. And it can be a frustrating process as you wait for these changes to take effect and become more automatic, as habits do.
How long does it take to form a new habit? A week? A month? A year?
At least 2 months (or about 66 days, on average), according to the research.
Jeremy Dean over at PsyBlog the other week wrote a great entry that looked at what the research tells us about how long it takes us to form a new habit:
Although the average was 66 days, there was marked variation in how long habits took to form, anywhere from 18 days up to 254 days in the habits examined in this study. As you’d imagine, drinking a daily glass of water became automatic very quickly but doing 50 sit-ups before breakfast required more dedication (above, dotted lines). The researchers also noted that:
- Missing a single day did not reduce the chance of forming a habit.
- A sub-group took much longer than the others to form their habits, perhaps suggesting some people are ‘habit-resistant’.
- Other types of habits may well take much longer.
So 66 days later, a simple habit might be in place and on automatic pilot. But as the research shows, it could as long as 8 and a half months for more complicated habits to take hold.
Read the full entry: How Long to Form a Habit?.