How many days does it take to break a habit?

how many days does it take to break a habit

The answer you see a lot of places is that it is 21 days. This is not the case, but where does this come from? This quote is attributed to Maxwell Maltz, author of Psycho-cybernetics. He is one of the pioneers of the modern self help movement. He asked the question, how many days does it take to break a habit? Maltz made a broad generalization based on his experience with people he worked with. He made the best determination with the knowledge he had it the time, as we all do. While this doesn’t seem to be accurate, this book is a goldmine of knowledge about how the mind works.

His book and his work brought a huge amount of insight about the self image and how people literally creates their lives based on their self image. This knowledge has permeated mainstream psychology which was very Freudian at the time.  Freudian psychology says that the subconscious mind is just a garbage dump of repressed negative memories and urges. To put it lightly, Freudian psychology has proven to be an incomplete theory. Maltz’s work helped to overturn the status quo of psychology at the time of its writing. How many days does it take to break a habit, is not truly answered by this book though. The most recent research was done with 96 people published in The European Journal of Social Psychology in 2009. 

This study determined that it took on average 66 days for a person to adopt a habit like eating fruit daily. That was the average, but it took anywhere between 18-254 days depending on the person. Habits are broken effectively by creating a replacement habit that meets the same emotional need as the existing habit. Examples of the needs underlying habits could be Relaxation/Safety with smoking and Connection/love with a sex addict. It is good to differentiate here that there is a difference between habits and addictions. Habits you are conditioned to do daily but an addiction you have to do or it causes a physical reaction.

 How Many Days Does It Take To Break A Habit?—Ways To Accelerate Releasing An Old Habit

The problem with this study it really is missing some very important information. How motivated are people to adopt the habit of eating fruit daily or walking 15 minutes daily? The slowest way to get the subconscious to adopt beliefs and behaviors such as a habit, is through repetition. It is a lot quicker when you give it reasons to be more motivated and also give it a reason to stop doing the old habit. It is like building a house with a hammer and nails by yourself versus a 15 man crew with power tools and screws. Just think about it, do you feel motivated to eat fruit every day if you don’t already? It is unlikely you are.

How Many Days Does It Take To Break A Habit When You Are Motivated? It Can Cut It In Half!

I get asked this all the time, how do i get motivated? You are already motivated and you are already successful. How do I know this? Well unless you are dead, you are reading this, so you probably did many things you are already doing habitually. Anything you complete like getting to work, or eating a meal is a success. You had to be motivated to some extent to do those things. Knowing this is the key to understand how someone becomes motivated to do something new.

Everything humans do they do to out of their need to either avoid pain or gain pleasure. People respond more reliably to pain, than pleasure. The caveat to this is people do things to gain PERCEIVED pleasure and avoid PERCEIVED pain. People don’t rationally weigh everything they do to make sure it really causes pain. They go based off of events they have experienced in their life up until now. The reason why most people take so long to adopt a habit is because it hasn’t been linked in their nervous system to pleasure and the old habit linked to pain. Therefore they have no leverage on themselves to change.

Have you ever called into work or cancelled something when you really could have gone? Why did you do that? Was it because it was more painful to you to go to work that day than it was to stay home?

Anything we do consistently, we link pleasure to doing and pain to not doing it. How many days does it take to break a habit? It depends on how much pain is linked to the old behavior and how much pleasure is linked to the new behavior.

how many days does it take to break a habit

How Many Days Does It Take To Break A Habit? Tips On Breaking A Negative Habit

These are my 3 easy steps to reduce how many days it takes to break a habit

-Link massive pain to the old habit

Get out a piece of paper and answer these questions.( total of 20 drawbacks the more emotional the better)

What will continuing doing this habit cost me in the way of friendships?

How will continuing doing this habit cost me in the area of my career?

What will continuing doing this habit cost me with my health?

-Do a pattern interrupt when you are about to do old patterns

Using a pattern interrupt literally throws off your automatic behavior you go into when you are performing an old habit. The brain goes on auto pilot. It is important to have a pre-planned pattern interrupt to prevent the automatic behavior. One way to do this is to close your eyes and move your eye balls up, down, to the left, and to the right. This is a simple way to interrupt the automatic en-grained behaviors. This is a short term solution, but it is necessary as you are building in the new habit.

How Many Days Does It Take To Break A Habit?—Ways To Adopt An Empowering Habit Quicker

1. Discover need underlying old habit

Ask yourself, what do I get out of my old habit?

When you get an answer it is time to find an empowering alternative habit that meets that need. Examples are Meditation for relaxation, visiting a pet shelter to volunteer regularly to get a sense of connection. The real key here is to choose something you actually see yourself doing regularly.

2.Link pleasure to the new habit

A simple way to do this is find your favorite song and play this song as you are doing the new habit if possible. This links the positive association to your favorite song to the new behavior making it easier for your brain to adopt. Also on your piece of paper answer these questions about the new habit.

What will I gain overall in my life by adopting this new empowering habit?(10 things you would gain)

3. Reinforce this pleasure linkage each time you do the habit

It is good to find a variety of ways to positively reinforce your positive behavior. Examples of this are randomly taking yourself out to dinner after doing the habit daily for 2 weeks or a month.