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How long to break a habit is a question many people think about when they want to give up on a habit, especially bad ones.
But before proceeding further, we should first know what a habit is. Habit refers to any particular activity that is a part of our routine that we can’t give up on easily. It takes some time to form a new habit or to get used to it. The habit formation process is the process in which you start doing things on a regular basis and when you don’t do that particular thing you feel incomplete like something is missing from your schedule.
Habitual behavior can be formed consciously or unconsciously; waking up early every morning is a habit you can form consciously but on the other hand, watching TV daily is a habit that can be formed unconsciously.
Different people have different types of habits. Just like every coin has 2 sides and every story has 2 aspects; habits formed are also of two types: Good habits and bad habits.
While good habits such as waking up early, exercising daily, reading books or newspapers daily etc. contribute towards your overall development; it is dangerous if a person develops wrong habits such as drinking, smoking, bunking classes etc. They can even induce self-destructive behavior in an individual.
Quoted by Sean Covey; “Depending on what they are, our habits will either make us or break us. We become what we repeatedly do“. Thus it is good if you quit such bad habits as soon as possible so they don’t affect you in the long run.
So in this article, we will discuss how long to break a habit, what steps shall be taken and the myths associated with breaking habits.
Also, read the article on 13 habits of healthy kids.
A. How long to break a habit?
There is no set time interval in which you can break a habit. We are all familiar with the famous idiom “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, this idiom is applicable to everything that exists. Just like habit formation can’t be done in a single day same is in the case of breaking a habit.
There is no pre-defined magic number of days within which you can break a habit, it all depends on the person’s consistent efforts to quit a habit. You can’t break habits within a single day or within a week, it requires more time and patience.
There is a very popular myth which suggests that it generally takes only 21 days to break a habit. Proposed by plastic surgeon Maxwell Maltz, this theory was based on the fact that it took at least 21 days for his patients to get used to their new faces. He observed a similar thing in him when he adopted a new change in his life.
But further research suggests this 21-day myth is not applicable to all people and conditions in real life. The researchers of University College London concluded that it takes longer time than this. It was not based on any experiment. Moreover, this theory was not based on any research and so there was no scientific evidence to prove it
B. Important factors to know about
One person can break a habit in 3 months, another person can take 5 months and some other person can take even more time. This all depends on your ability, dedication, hard work, sincere efforts and willingness to not give up.
Following are a few factors that decide that it will take how long to break a habit:
1) Your dedication
This is the first and the foremost thing that decides that you will take how long to break a habit.
If you are strongly determined and willing to give up a habit at any cost, then congratulations you are just few steps behind achieving your target.
Behavioral sciences suggest that if you have a good will power then nothing can stop you from achieving your target fast. Reason for this is that you won’t let the negative thoughts dominate you and will work more sincerely towards leaving old habits.
Consistency is the key to success. A person who is consistent towards achieving habit change will definitely achieves it no matter how hard it is to achieve.
If you are consistent that you want to leave a bad habit then you will find the correct approach to break bad habits and will definitely break the habit as soon as possible.
A consistent person will not waste time thinking about how long to break a habit, rather will work with full dedication to overcome his addiction .
Along with consistency, patience is also important. Combination of the two will make a huge impact and will give the positive results.
There is no alternative for efforts and hard work. If you want to achieve anything in your life then you need to take efforts for it. There is a direct relation between the two. The more the amount of hard work you put, the earlier will you achieve your goal.
So start putting up little efforts daily on breaking your habit. With time you will see that your little efforts would make a great change.
If you ever feel demotivated that your efforts are not showing you a positive outcome, then don’t forget that even ants fail multiple times before they reach their goals.
4) Set up a time limit
You can set up a time limit for yourself that you want to break a habit within a specified number of days let’s say at least two months, then start working towards achieving your target and you will see progress. Don’t stress yourself that you have to complete the task within this time but try to achieve your goal.
The benefit will be that when you set up a time limit then you have a direction and path to follow. When you see that the time line is about to end then an automatic response will be generated and you will work harder towards leaving your old habit.
C. Things that will help to undergo a habit change
a) Focus on the positive outcomes
When you will get to know the reward of quitting a habit you will positively get attracted towards quitting it. At this point all the second thoughts you had about losing that habit will be removed from your mind instead you will be motivated to work harder to achieve your goal.
When you will see how much you will get benefit by losing a habit, you will work with more dedication towards quitting that particular habit and you will be able to give up that bad habit faster.
b) Following the replacement behavior
In case it is not easy for you to break a habit then you can try this method. Social psychology states that for a person quitting old habit may not be easy but instead, if he adopts a new habit this can be helpful.
For example, if you are addicted to drinking alcohol or say tea too much and you are not able to quit it then you can drink green tea or some other healthy drink in place of alcohol or tea and slowly- slowly you will get adapted to it.
c) Try changing your environment
Our environment too has an effect on our life and our habits. If you find it difficult to change a habit then you can change your environment.
For example, if you our addicted to something bad then to give it up you can either try changing your living place or your friend circle. Studies have shown that this method has proved effective for many people to give up on useless and unwanted habits.
It is useless to carry on such habits which can cause you harm in the long run. Rather one should inculcate such habits which contribute in the overall progress and not hinder it.
The question how long to break a habit shouldn’t emerge as an obstacle in your Changing or quitting habit overnight is not possible. Most people are worried about how long to break a habit and so without even starting they lose the battle.
Worrying won’t help you in succeeding, rather it requires a lot of patience and dedication and correct motivation to succeed. At a certain point of time you will feel like that you should give up but always remember that winners don’t quit. All you need is with a positive approach and not to give up attitude you will definitely succeed in achieving your goal and would be able to give up on your addiction one day.