It’s still that time of year when New Year Resolutions are in the air. Maybe we’re doing well or maybe we’ve given up on them entirely. But either way, it got me to wondering how long it takes to break a habit.
It would seem that everyone has a different opinion on this one.
Some experts say it’s 21 days. 21 days is almost accepted as fact.
Last weekend I was listening to a CD by an expert in the personal development field who claimed it was 7 days.
And I’ve defnitely read plenty of opinion that says the real figure is months, not days or weeks.
So how do you know when you’ve broken a habit?
I recently gave up coffee. My caffeine habit had risen to 4 mugs a day of freshly brewed “real” coffee and I was feeling exhausted with every caffeine rush and then energy dip. So I duely went through 4 days of detox and spent 21 days “giving up”.
Actually, a dear friend of mine pointed out I “only” managed 20 1/2 days. And maybe that’s where I went wrong, because shortly after my first mug in nearly 3 weeks, I was back on daily doses, that have now returned to pre-giving-up levels.
On the other hand, I made a commitment to myself to get up every morning at 6 to meditate and have some time for myself, before the day begins. And after just 3 days I found myself actively looking forward to my new habit.
And I still remember when I was young that my mother went to a hypnotherapist to give up smoking – but he told her she had actually given up the moment she walked through his door. He could tell she had a made a commitment to herself to quit and, 30+ years on, she’s never touched a cigarette since.
So how long does it take to break an old habit or start a new one?
Breaking an old habit or starting a new one is “done” as soon as you make a true commitment to yourself that it’s what you’re going to do.
Why didn’t giving up coffee work for me? Because I didn’t really want to. I was doing it because I felt it was “the right thing to do”. So my heart wasn’t really in it.
As for getting up early each day, that’s working well because I really want to do it. Those who know me will know how precious a commodity sleep is for me(!). But I know how much more centred and chilled out I feel when I’ve taken that time each morning. So some days I’ll get up to meditate and then go back to bed afterwards! It’s almost easy, because I’ve committed to myself to do it.
So you can break a habit in as little time as it takes you to make a decision.
Yes, after the decision, willpower and action is still needed. But it’s the strength of that decision – why it is important to you – that will make the difference between success and failure.
Is there a habit you want to change today?
How committed are you to making that change?
Which habit do you want to change and why is it important to you?
PS Want some serious help with this? Ditching Imposter Syndrome has life-changing how-to for you – all in bite-sized, inspirational chunks. Here’s where you can get your copy now.