How long does it take to break a habit? (2023)

How long does it take to break a habit? (1)

Exercising more, quitting smoking, learning a new skill, spending less and saving more money, and spending more time with family and friends are just some of the possibilities.Most Popular New Year's Resolutionsproduced by humans every year. All of this involves developing different habits with long-term benefits and breaking bad habits.

However, onelearnThe study, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, found that only 46% of habit-forming attempts were successful. Why does this happen and how long does it really take to break a habit?

What is considered a bad habit?

We often see habits as objectively good or objectively bad. However, this dichotomous segmentation is probably not correct: habits exist on a continuum. The habit of driving 12 mph over the speed limit is on one end of the spectrum, while eating an entire bag of potato chips once a year is on the other.

Our brain connects short-term triggers, rewards and behaviors without assessing their long-term consequences while forming habits. For example, you start smoking cigarettes to relieve stress and continue until it becomes a habit or second nature to you.

Bad habits like these might seem like a good thing now, but they can negatively affect your mental, physical, and emotional state. in the nextindicates a bad habit.

invoke guilt

Habits like spending too much money to relieve stress, not being able to say "no" to things you don't like, overthinking, procrastinating, nail biting, and negative self-talk are some examples of bad habits that you can upset or cause guilt. .

have adverse health effects

Smoking, drinking alcohol, bending over, not exercising, eating little or poorly are some old habits or bad habits that can harm your health if you continue doing nothing. Any habit that leads to sleep deprivation also falls into this category.

What causes the formation of bad habits?

after alearnby Smith and Graybiel in 2016, the habit loop is triggered by a cue, a response, and a reward. A person is more likely to enter a habit loop when experiencing negative emotions.

An example might be that people overeat when they are tired or bored. Other people may smoke or start drinking when they are stressed. In both cases, negative emotions act as signals that connect the reward and response to a person's bad habit.

(Video) How Long Does It Take To Break A Habit

Why is it hard to break bad habits?

Once a habit becomes ingrained in our brains after repeated repetition, it can be difficult to break. A solution starts with understanding why. Here's why breaking a habit can be so difficult.

good behaviors

Habits can form when a pleasant or good event activates our brain's reward centers. Such behaviors and triggers cause a person's brain to release a chemical called dopamine.

A University of Texas neurobiologist, Dr. Russell Poldrack says, "When you do something over and over again and there's dopamine involved, it further reinforces the habit. When you don't do those things, the dopamine makes you want to do it again."

Mangel a motivation

Motivation is a necessary driving force to break an unhealthy habit. Therefore, being unmotivated can make breaking the habit almost impossible. The reason for low motivation could be overwhelming stress, anxiety, procrastination or other psychological reasons like ADHD.

Lack of acceptance or awareness

Der Direktor des National Institute on Drug Abuse ofNIH, mentions Dr. Nora Volkow that once a behavior becomes automatic, it gives us an advantage because our brains don't need to use conscious thought to perform the activity. Habitual behavior forces a person to do it unconsciously, making habits harder to break. Lack of awareness that the habit is bad for you can prevent you from taking steps to stop.

What is the 21/90 rule?

The 21/90 Rule is a popular habit-forming method where the common practice is for a person to continually engage in a task for 21 days. 21 days should be enough to form a new habit.

According to the rule, after three weeks of observance, it became a habit. However, you probably won't see the benefits of the new activity, the person will need to continue for another 90 days straight to reap the benefits of the new habit.

Does it take 21 days to break a habit?

While it is a very popular idea that 21 days is ideal for forming a new habit, the concept of taking 21 days to form a habit is inherentlya myth, according to a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology and the University College London study.

It originated from the book "Psycho-Cybernetics" by Dr. expanded this idea to include the time needed to acclimatize to a new home.

(Video) HOW TO BREAK THE BAD HABITS - Try it and You'll See The Results

While there is some truth to his statements, he relied primarily on his patients' testimonies rather than collecting scientific evidence. Furthermore, there is also a clear difference between habituation and habit formation. Still, it was somehow translated into the present tense as "habit formation takes 21 days".

How long can it take to break a habit?

Realistically, the weaning process depends on several factors, such as:

  • How long ago did the person develop the habit
  • Whether the behavior is fully integrated into the person's life.
  • The person's motivation.
  • The rewards he receives (social, emotional or physical)

There may also be cases where a particular habit or behavior that you don't want to stop supports the habit you are trying to stop.

For example, they are trying to develop the habit of cooking at home to break the habit of ordering takeout. But on your way home from work, you visit your favorite restaurant and keep failing both goals, convincing yourself that this is the last day you'll ever have takeout.

In 2012 orInvestigationThe article Making Health Habitual Through Habitual Training suggests that 10 weeks or 2.3 months is the realistic amount of time it takes a person to develop a new behavior or habit.

However, the best-known evidence-based research is the 2009 University College London paper, How Habits Are Formed: Modeling Habit Formation in the Real World.

According toInvestigation, it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to break or change a habit. During the survey, participants were asked to incorporate healthy exercise, drinking and eating habits into their lives according to their preferences.

The results showed that it took them an average of 66 days to get used to the habit before it became automatic. Among the 96 participants, it took one person just 18 days to develop a new habit, while most took longer.

While missing a day didn't drastically affect their progress, repeating the task every day helped them develop the habit faster.

(Video) A simple way to break a bad habit | Judson Brewer

7 ways to break bad habits

Breaking a habit takes time, but it's not impossible. See how you can do this:

1. Set realistic goals

Choosing a realistic but simple goal that you can easily reach every day can be a successful habit breaker.

UCL research showed that participants with simpler habits, like drinking water after breakfast, made it a habit faster than those with complex habits, like exercising 10 minutes before dinner.

2. Identify the triggers

Recognizing what triggers your bad habit is one step towards breaking it. For example, be aware that when you are stressed or after completing a task, you will snack unhealthy.

To identify triggers, identifying the reason for your unhealthy habits can help you find the best place to start and come up with strategies to combat them.

3. Change the environment

In 2018, Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences published a review ofhabit training and changesuggest that changing the environment increases the likelihood that a person will develop a new behavior or habit.

4. Plan for mistakes

As we said before, breaking a habit is not easy. So instead of blaming yourself for missing a day of practice, you can plan for when it will happen. Here the return to normality is more important.

If you feel that your schedule is making it difficult for you to exercise every day, you can schedule it on your days off, as exercising once a week is better than not exercising at all.

As Steve Kamb, author of Level Up Your Life, said, "One bad meal, lack of exercise, or one day of overeating won't undo weeks of hard work. But that one bad meal or missed workout can.mentally undoWeeks of hard work, if you let it."

(Video) How to break the bad habits - Dr. Jordan Peterson

5. Hold accountable

Holding yourself accountable or having an accountable partner can motivate you to prioritize homework. Tell friends about your goals, do your homework with a partner, and share your progress on social media. These are effective ways to take responsibility.

Even if you don't want to work with an accountable partner, tracking your progress can help you hold yourself accountable.Focus TransportFor this, it has useful registration features.

How long does it take to break a habit? (2)

6. Practice mentally

ANDNeurobiologist Dr. Russell Poldracksuggests visualizing the scene where you commit to good habits instead of bad ones to change habits.

He says, "If you're at a party and want to eat veggies instead of gaining weight, imagine doing it. It's not guaranteed to work, but it certainly can help."

7. Replace with new habits

According toBulletin of Personality and Social Psychology 2011Replacing a bad habit with a good one is a more effective process than trying to break it completely. This allows you to keep the existing trigger but replace it with a healthier alternative.

While it doesn't completely replace the old habit, it can create positive changes in your life and strengthen new ones.

How long does it take to break a habit? (3)

For example, instead of trying to break the junk food habit after completing a task or when you're stressed, you can switch to a healthy diet by replacing it with healthier snacks or foods.

ThroughFocus Transport, you can learn to replace unhealthy habits by establishing a routine of good habits in their place.


Perseverance is key when it comes to changing habits and getting rid of old ones. Even if it seems impossible, try to stay motivated, follow a routine and think about the positive changes it can bring to your life and your physical and mental health.

(Video) How Long Does It Take to Build a Habit? HINT: It's NOT 21 Days


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