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Jan 25, 2012

So, How Long Does It Take to Form a Habit?

"How long does it take to form a habit?"  I googled this question and what have I got?   In 0.17 seconds, I got 169 million results. It seems a lot of people are asking this same question. So I guess I am normal after all. Anyway, I foresee that as I set out goals, it will be a series of breaking old habits and developing better habits. I simply got curious as to how long it's going to take me to break and form particular habits. 

What is a habit in the first place?  The simplest definition I have read so far in the searches that came up is that it's something you do automatically without thinking at all.  Ah much like my habit of putting the handkerchief in my left pocket.  So by instinct, when I need it, I reach inside the left pocket....only this time, it's the Pokewalker that I would be grabbing.  Arrrggghhhh!  I did that several times before I got used to the idea that the hanky now goes in the right pocket.  Why confuse myself?  There's a logical explanation.  I keep hitting the buttons of the Pokewalker when it's in my right pocket, thus the switch.  I would say it took me a week to get used to that and sometimes, I pause to think before reaching for my hanky.  I guess it's hard to rewire my brain.

Let's get on to developing a healthy habit.  You'd think by now, after more than 21 days, I'd be used to drinking the average 8 glasses of water (which is by the way not an absolute number).  There are days when I only manage 5 or 6 glasses of water.  I know because I keep track (yay! that's another habit there).  So, with this simple task of drinking water, the 21 days is also not an absolute timeline.  Although, I think my body is already adjusting, particularly my throat.  It keeps signaling that it's ready to take in another glassful of water after a certain interval.

Essentially, I would say that habit breaking and forming do not have a specific time frame.  It depends on variables such as the:
  • Simplicity or complexity of the habit
  • Person's readiness and willingness to make changes
  • Environment or circumstance that triggers the habit
  • Level of motivation or strength of resolve of the person
  • Availability of support (whenever applicable)
  • Availability of resources (whenever applicable)

There could be other factors that could come into play with regards to breaking habits and developing new ones.  But for starters, I think it's best to work outside the box instead of pressuring ourselves with the 21- day "rule"  that's clearly a myth.  Even this study that says the average is around 66 days should not be considered the norm.

I got to thinking that the key to habit breaking or forming is actually to get started.  Taking the first step is a decision we personally make and once we do, persistence comes into play.  So, the better question to ask is:  How soon do I start?

BXP135671 by tableatny


  1. It's not always easy to start forming a good habit but once it's done, it becomes part of the system. Also I realized that forming habits when one is older is a lot easier than when I was younger :)

  2. Ive been to a seminar once and the speaker said that it takes 28 days (not sure, but I relate it to the menstrual period hehe) to form a habit. For me, it is an every day effort because it is so hard to undo all the bad habits you've formed throughout the years. Children should be started on good habits while they are young. I thank u (chos!)Happy New Year, Aileen!

  3. Sis, you can't possibly apply that to men lol! Like I said, it will largely depend on the person and the circumstances