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How long does it take to make a new habit?
Did you know that it takes 66 days on average to make a new habit or break an old one.
That’s how long it takes for a behaviour to become automatic.
So for those of you who may be starting to feel your New Year’s resolutions wane – take heart – it’s completely normal, however understanding more about why this is the case can be really helpful.
In the study conducted at University College London, (and published in the European Journal of Social Psychology) scientists found the length of time for a new habit to form varies between 18 days to 254 days.
You may be one of the lucky ones who is at the lower end of the scale, but for most of us it takes around two months.
Here’s what we know about making new habits:
The brain’s reward system comes into play when we feel we deserve a treat.
Let’s say you’ve had a challenging day – when you get home you may feel you deserve a treat, such as a glass of wine or biscuits. This is perfectly normal – it’s your neurotransmitter dopamine releasing to tell you that you should be rewarded for your challenging day.
We make our new goals and habits too large to manage.
Try breaking your larger goals down into manageable chunks – aim to be more active 3 days/week rather than set yourself up to fail by aiming to run every day.
Commit to the process but know that habits are not all or nothing.
You can mess up now and again – and fall off the ‘no alcohol, less sugar, exercise more’ wagon and still make progress. In fact , it may be the best way to make habits stick. You need to learn what your triggers are, that way you can plan how to work around them. I like to think new habits are a bit like playing snakes and ladders!
Prepare to succeed and reward yourself for your hard work.
Don’t set yourself up to fail. If your goal is to eat healthier then make sure your environment sets you up to succeed. Plan your meals and remove those biscuits! Some habits like exercise doesn’t usually give us an immediate reward, but that’s okay. Why not reward yourself in a different way? It could be money towards new training clothes, watching your favourite soap, or even one piece of dark chocolate – recent evidence suggests this may help lock in a new habit – but I did say one piece!
February is the time of year when many of us drop our goals or resolutions – but this doesn’t have to be you.
If your goal was to get fitter in 2019 then use February as your month to consolidate all of the work you’ve done so far. Choose the activities you liked best and schedule them into your diary like you would arranging to meet up with a friend.
Here at OSD Healthcare we are picking our favourite activities from the last month and doing them again to help our habits stick. January’s goal was to get the team exercising everyday. February is all about keeping the momentum going by tailoring activities and times to fit the crew. We’re aiming to succeed in creating lifetime habits and hope you are too.
If you would like to discuss the topics in this blog, please feel free to contact our friendly patient services team on [telephone] or fill out our contact form here.