I read somewhere that it takes just 21 days to change a habit, that's fantastic I thought. In just 3 weeks I can change a pattern of behaviour, learn a new habit, get rid of those horrible thoughts, and become a new person in no time at all.
Unfortunately whoever started this 'myth' was either being optimistic, encouraging you to at least try to start changing, misinterpreted the original information or was simply being disingenuous.
You cannot change a habit in 21 days, I am sorry, it doesn't quite work like that. There maybe a recent habit that you can change in 21 days, perhaps a word that you learned, a facial expression you started using, or maybe a physical 'tick' that just suddenly appeared. But not a lifetime habit, or one that is associated with evolution.
So how long does it take to change a habit? It depends. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to the brain. You are fighting a lifetime of learning, sometimes even generations of habit. Generally, it takes between 60 to 80 days to change a habit of a lifetime.
There are some important rules to follow when changing a habit;
- Stick to it - A new habit has to become a habit but will only become a habit if you do it habitually!
- Don't change it - If you continually play around with your new habit by altering the pattern it won't become a pattern.
- Habits need hard work - Don't give up just because it hasn't worked as fast as you had hoped it would.
- Small steps - If your habit is a big one, break it into small bits. Change a little at a time.
- Share your habit - If you have a close friend who is also changing a habit, work together to support each other.
Don't be disappointed if you can't change your habit, after all you are only human. Maybe you were meant to have that habit.