How Long To Break A Habit: An Effective Guide

How long to break a habit is a question many people think about when they want to give up on a habit, especially a bad one.

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.

1. How Long To Break A Habit

Habitual behavior 1can 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.

2. Can’t Break A Habit In A Single Day

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Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash

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 that suggests that it generally takes only 21 days to break a habit. Proposed by plastic surgeon2 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

3. 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 when it will take how long to break a habit:

3.1. Your Dedication

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Photo by Norbert Kundrak on Unsplash

This is the first and 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 a few steps behind achieving your target.

Behavioral sciences suggest that if you have good willpower then nothing can stop you from achieving your target fast. The reason for this is that you won’t let the negative thoughts dominate you and will work more sincerely towards leaving old habits.

3.2. Consistency

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Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash

Consistency is the key to success. A person who is consistent towards achieving habit change will definitely achieve 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. A combination of the two will make a huge impact and will give positive results.

3.3. Efforts

There is no alternative to effort 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 in, the earlier will you achieve your goal.

So start putting up a little effort daily on breaking your habit. With time you will see that your little efforts would make a great change.

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Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

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.

3.4.  Set Up A Time Limit

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Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

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 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 timeline is about to end then an automatic response will be generated and you will work harder towards leaving your old habit.

4. Things That Will Help To Undergo A Habit Change

4.1. Focus On The Positive Outcomes

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Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

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.

4.2.  Following The Replacement Behavior

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Photo by Ryan Gagnon on Unsplash

In case it is not easy for you to break a habit then you can try this method. Social psychology3 states that for a person quitting an 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.

4.3. Try To Change 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 are 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.

5. Conclusion

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 to the overall progress and not hinder it.

The question of how long to break a habit shouldn’t emerge as an obstacle in your Changing or quitting a 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 in time, you will feel like you should give up but always remember that winners don’t quit. All you need is 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 4one day.


1. How long does it take to break a habit?

A: The time it takes to break a habit can vary depending on several factors, such as the complexity of the habit, individual differences, and the strategies employed. However, research suggests that it may take an average of 21 to 66 days to break a habit, with some habits taking longer to change.

2. Are there certain habits that are harder to break than others?

A: Yes, some habits can be more challenging to break than others. Habits that have a strong emotional or psychological component, such as smoking or excessive snacking, tend to be more difficult to break compared to simpler habits. Additionally, habits that have been ingrained over a longer period may require more time and effort to change.

3. Can breaking a habit lead to relapse?

A: Yes, breaking a habit can lead to relapse, especially if the habit has deep roots or is associated with strong triggers. It’s essential to stay vigilant even after successfully breaking a habit and be prepared to address any potential relapses with renewed commitment.


Read more

  1. Kruglanski, Arie W., and Ewa Szumowska. “Habitual behavior is goal-driven.” Perspectives on Psychological Science 15.5 (2020): 1256-1271. ↩︎
  2. Schultz, Kelly P., et al. “Integrated plastic surgery applicant review: important factors and selection criteria.” Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Global Open 8.7 (2020). ↩︎
  3. Kassin, Saul, Steven Fein, and Hazel Rose Markus. Social psychology. SAGE Publications, 2023. ↩︎
  4. Wise, Roy A., and Mykel A. Robble. “Dopamine and addiction.” Annual review of psychology 71 (2020): 79-106. ↩︎

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Yashika Mahajan

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