What is a Habit?
A habit is a behaviour that, because they have been performed so frequently and regularly in the past, becomes an automatic action. The brain creates an association between a specific situation, otherwise known as a cue, and a subsequent action, meaning that when the brain encounters the cue, the behaviour is performed automatically.
Forming a Habit – Days 1 to 22
While some habits may be ones that you try to break, there are others that can be extremely beneficial to your life, whether this may be drinking a glass of water every morning, or doing fifty sit-ups every evening. When you first decide to form a habit, it is a good idea to inform your family and friends of what you are trying to do, even enlisting a couple of them to help you, pointing out times when you may be falling back to your old ways. The fact that you have now told people about your new habit will make it harder to slip up, as it is often easier to disappoint yourself than others.
Forming a Habit – Days 22 to 44
After the first three weeks, trying to form a new habit can begin to feel like a bit of a chore. This is the time when you need to some soul-searching, reminding yourself of exactly why you are trying to create this new habit. This will help you to keep going throughout this middle phase of habit formation, giving you all the motivation you need if you ever feel like giving up.
Forming a Habit – Days 44 to 66
Now that you are at the final stages of forming a new habit, you will almost be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, now is the time when it is quite easy to burn out, and you really need to push yourself to get through these 22 days.
Forming a Habit – Days 66+
66 days is the average that it takes to form a new habit, and once you notice that you seem to be performing the behaviour automatically, then you know that you really have created a new habit for yourself. The best way to solidify this is to celebrate in some way, because you definitely deserve it after the determination that you have shown to get through these past two months.
When forming a new habit, you do not need to be aiming for perfection. Making a few mistakes here and there is perfectly okay, and you need to treat this like a science by expecting that mistakes will occur and developing a strategy to get back on top of things when they do. While the level of consistency needed to form a new habit is still relatively unknown, studies have shown that a few mistakes in the 66 days will not hold you back in any way.
The idea of forming a new habit can often seem quite daunting, but once you understand the time that it takes to do this, and the different stages that you will be going through, the process becomes much more realistic and do-able. Whether you’re struggling to keep your New Year’s resolutions, or simply want to improve your life with a few healthy habits, don’t be discouraged if it seems to be taking you more time than expected – as long as you focus on getting through one day at a time, two months will be over before you know it!