Forming new habits, and breaking old ones is difficult and time consuming. Many believe that it takes just 21 days to form or break a habit, but this just isn’t true. In fact, the amount of time it takes you to form or break any habit is personal, and highly dependant on the specific habit. Also it is much harder to break a habit than it is to restructure it, or form a new one all together. On average it takes at least two months (66 days) for a new behavior to develop into an automatic response. This is a general estimate and not a hard truth, so be patient with yourself if it takes you longer.
Bad habits–like sleeping in, ordering take-out, and binge watching Netflix– are easy to form because they offer instant gratification. Good habits–like flossing, working out, and eating well–are much harder to form because the benefits of these habits take much longer to see and feel. There are ways to make forming good habits and breaking bad habits easier though. First of all, since bad habits are easier to restructure than they are to break entirely, try to restructure them into the good habits that you want to form, rather than working twice as hard to break one and form the other.
Restructure One Habit At A Time to avoid becoming so overwhelmed by change that you fail at restructuring any habit at all.
Know Why You Want To Change so that when your alarm goes off at 5am and you’re questioning whether or not your goals at better habits are worth it or not, you’ll know for sure that they are.
Make A Plan to succeed in restructuring your habits including: what habit you want to change and why, when you’re going to start, how you’re going to accomplish it, and what you’re going to do to celebrate once you’ve accomplished your goal.
Remove Old Triggers that remind you of your bad habits, or make participating in your old bad habits easy. The more triggers you remove from your life the easier it will be to restructure your bad habit into a good one.
Write Reminders To Yourself so that you don’t forget why it is you’re doing this. You can also write motivation or inspiration for yourself to find when you think you might stumble upon an old trigger that you can’t just get rid of.
Give Yourself Time to restructure your habits. They weren’t formed in a day so you shouldn’t expect them to be restructured into good habits in a day either. Be patient with yourself, even if you slip up once or twice.
Celebrate Your Success as soon as your restructured habit begins to feel like second nature. The positive re enforcement will help to solidify your decision, and make the struggle feel worth it.
While you are busy restructuring your old bad habits of late night snacking, unlimited time in front of the television, and carbohydrate binges into healthy habits like late night meditation, unlimited time at the gym, and protein binges know that there will be times when you slip up and cave to the temptations of your bad habits. It is inevitable. The trick is to realize that those actions are no longer your ‘norm’ and that being healthy and active is. You’ll begin to notice that the more time you put into restructuring your habits, the less effort you’ll have to put forth.
Although forming a habit is simple in theory it is by no means easy in practice, and will take your concentration and dedication for two months, at the very least. This is especially true for more complex habits such as playing a sport or learning to cook, which may take months, or years to become proficient in.
While these are both great options for new habits to establish, they may not be the best options for restructuring a bad habit, since they’ll take extra time to learn and master. The goal of restructuring bad habits into good habits is to pick good habits that you already know how to do and can do fairly easily, but perhaps never made the time for before, so that you can focus more on changing the bad habits than on learning the good one. This will actually help you to stay on track in the long run, because you won’t have to battle the frustration of learning a new task.
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