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How Long Does It Really Take To Create A New Habit?

Some habits are easier to achieve than others!

I love running. So, getting up at 6:00 a.m. and going for an early morning run is a cinch for me. No sweat, pun intended. I look forward to this quiet time every morning, to feel the fresh air, softly, whizzing by as I run, the birds all in harmony around me, as I quietly embrace my thoughts.

On the other hand, eating healthy is a habit I am steadfastly working on. That’s because unhealthy foods, like chicken wings (my fav), pizza, hamburgers and fries, etc. all seem to call out my name! This habit of eating healthy is an ongoing one I’m slowly conquering. At the grocery store, I read all labels before putting the item in my shopping cart. The vegetable section has become my most favorite section in the store, something I would never had said aloud a few years ago! When ordering at restaurants, I’m guided by both what is in the dish and the calorie count. I’m convinced eating healthy will soon become the norm for me.

They say it takes 21 days to create a new habit. That’s kind of a weird idea though, isn’t it? It doesn’t take that long to form a bad habit. And sometimes no matter how hard we try it takes us a lot longer to form a new habit.

Tough it Out

So how long does it really take to create a new habit? The answer is that it depends. It depends on your mindset and it depends on how big of a change it is from what you are doing now. If it is your habit is to eat a bowl of ice cream at night before going to bed, and you switch from regular ice cream to a low sugar frozen yogurt version, it’s probably not going to take you very long to make that new habit. Giving up ice cream altogether though or cutting out all sugar on the other hand might take a lot longer.

What you really want to know is how long do I have to tough it out before it gets easier? Is there a light at the end of the tunnel where I don’t have to try so hard anymore? In other words, when will this new behavior become automatic?

While it will be different from one person to the next and even from one habit to the next, there are a few things to keep in mind.

It’s easier to make a new habit than to get rid of an old one. Be prepared to work a lot harder to give up checking your email every two minutes or snacking late at night. Whenever possible, try to replace an old habit with a new one. For example if you’re wanting to give up coffee, brew a cup of herbal tea in the morning and throughout the day, when you would usually reach for your cup of Joe.

Habits will form faster if you stick to the same time and environment each day. For example, if going for a walk is a habit you want to cultivate,  then keep your sneakers next to the front door and schedule your walk every day at 6:00 p.m., right after dinner.

A constant reminder of why you’re trying to change your behavior is also helpful. Remind yourself every day that you’re exercising so your body stays strong and fit. So, put a picture of that expensive outfit you’ve been longing to buy. Keep the reason why you’re changing front and center and then be prepared to stick it out.

Yes, it will take some time to make new habits and replace old ones. But it will be well worth it in the end!

Meditation is a habit that may come easily to some. I have been meditating for over five years, but there were many days I found myself slipping. These days, not so much, not since I completed the no cost Action Habits Challenge by Connie Ragen Green, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author, independent publisher, and serial entrepreneur. You can check it out here.

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