Are you looking to break a bad habit?
Breaking a bad habit can be incredibly difficult. When most people finally break a bad habit, it’s only after many failed attempts. If you want to break your bad habit once and for all, you need to be prepared to be seriously disciplined.
But, how long does it take to break a habit?
Check out this guide to learn everything you need to know about breaking a bad habit.
How Long Does it Take to Break a Bad Habit?
So, how long does it take to break a bad habit? There have been a lot of theories proposed throughout the years about how long it takes. Let’s take a look at what’s been proposed:
Many people claim that it takes 21 days to break a habit. This number isn’t completely arbitrary. It actually comes from a widely popular book published in 1960 by Maxwell Maltz titled Psycho-Cybernetics.
In this book, Maltz, a plastic surgeon, noticed that it took about 21 days for his patients to get used to their new looks. After this book was published, it became widely accepted that 21 was the magic number of days it took to break a habit.
However, while some people may be able to break a habit in 21 days, this certainly isn’t the case for everybody, as proved by a 2009 study conducted by the University College London. In this study, researchers looked at the habits of 96 people over a 12-week period.
On average, researchers found that it took an average of 66 days for people to stick to a new habit, but as a whole, numbers ranged from 18 days all the way to 254 days.
If you’re looking to break an addiction, many people believe that the key number is 90 days. Researchers from Yale University found that it takes the brain approximately 90 days to reset itself and shake off the influence of drugs.
After an addict had abstained from drug use for at least 90 days, researchers found patients’ brains were beginning to reengage in proper decision making and analytical functions. Perhaps this is why 90-day addiction treatment programs prove to be more successful than short-term ones.
Due to this study and others, experts agree that there is no magic number when it comes to breaking a bad habit. How long it takes someone to break a bad habit will depend on their environment, motivation level, the habit in question, personality, and a variety of other factors.
While it can help to give yourself a time frame for breaking your bad habit, you shouldn’t beat yourself up if it takes you longer to truly get over your habit.
How to Break Your Habit
How long it takes to break a habit will depend on how much effort you put forth to break the habit in question. If you’re looking to break your habit as quickly as possible, here are some things you can do to help:
For a New Habit
Most experts agree that one of the best ways to break a bad habit is to form a new habit in its place.
All the habits that you have in your life right now, whether good or bad, are there for a reason. In some way or another, these behaviors provide a benefit to you, even if the behavior is bad in other ways.
For example, you may experience an emotional “benefit” from smoking in that it helps you feel less stressed out. Because bad habits provide some sort of benefit, it can be very difficult to simply eliminate them.
This is why replacing a bad habit with a good habit that provides a similar benefit can be helpful. For example, if you smoke cigarettes when you’re stressed out, then it’s a bad plan to just quit smoking, as then you won’t have something in place to cope with your stress.
This is why you should choose a substitute for your bad behavior. For example, instead of smoking a cigarette, you can do a breathing exercise to help calm you down.
Know Your Triggers
If you want to break a bad habit, it’s also very important that you know your triggers.
For example, if you’re trying to cut back on drinking, avoid walking by the bar that you always go to for happy hour. Or, if you’re trying to stop snacking on candy when you get stressed, eliminate junk food in your kitchen.
By identifying what triggers you, you have a way of pushing back on your bad habits.
Join Forces With Someone
Kicking a bad habit can be difficult if you go at it completely alone. To make kicking your bad habit easier, we suggest pairing up with someone who is trying to do the same.
This way, you can hold each other accountable for your progress. Additionally, you’ll have someone to turn to who understands what you’re going through. Knowing that someone else is expecting better of you can be a powerful motivator.
Have a Good Reason for Quitting
Having a specific reason for quitting can make it easier for you to kick your bad habit.
For example, we all know that smoking is bad for our health, but oftentimes, this generalized idea isn’t enough to make one want to quit. So, try to be more specific about why you want to quit.
For example, you could tell yourself, “I want to quit smoking so I have more years to spend with my loved ones”. Or, if you want to quit eating burgers and lose weight, you could tell yourself, “I want to quit eating junk food so I have more energy for outdoor activities”.
The more specific you with your reasoning, the better off you’ll be.
Time to Break the Habit: Are You Ready?
Now that we’ve answered the question, “How long does it take to break a bad habit?”, it’s time to put these habit-breaking strategies into action.
Before you know it, your bad habit will be kicked to the curb. Also, be sure to check out this post to discover how to stay motivated and accomplish anything.