There's been a lot of research done on forming, and breaking, habits. In 1960, a book by Maxwell Maltz, said that it took 21 days to form a new habit or behaviour. And that became the standard thinking. As recently as 2009, however, new reseach has shown that it can take anywhere from 18 days to a whopping 254 days to form a new habit. The average time needed to make, and then to stick to, a
new habit is 66 days; more than three times what was originally calculated.
But what about breaking an old habit? How long does that take? It turns out, they can be closely linked. A habit is a "potent" or dominant response so what has to happen, in order to break that old/undesirable habit, is for a new "pre-potent" response to be put into place. As you consciously beginning forming that new habit, the old one becomes less and less dominant and will eventually fade into the background. Research shows that it's much easier to start doing something than it is to stop. Additionally, there doesn't seem to be any typical time-frame for breaking a habit. It's individual and depends, on large part, to finding the right mix of personality, motivation, circumstances, and the habit in question. Some habits are harder to break than others, but a habit that's aligned with your personal values, like being healthy, will be easier to change than those behaviors you're trying to change, or modify, as a result of pressure from others.
The trick is, of course, patience and persistance. "If, at first, you don't suceed, then try, try again." It seems, too, that focusing on your biggest motivation for quitting the habit, will spur you on better than just about anything else. You have got to want to change before that change can readily occur.
For a long time now, I've wanted to get in more exercising. I sit at my computer too much these days and riding my bicycle seems like a nice way to combine pleasure with more physical acivity. I can use my bike to get around the swamp and visit my friends. I can ride it when I run errands, too. I don't know how long it will take me to incorporate bike-riding into my daily routine but, since it's aligned with my belief in living a healthy life, I'm sure that it won't take long.
What habits do you want to lose...or gain? In a nutshell, my adice is to just do it, be patient with yourself when you fail, and remember that anything worth having (or worth losing) will require a little work.
On that note, I think this is the perfect time to stop and take my first spin around the swamp. See you all back here tomorrow!