Whenever New Year’s Eve comes back around on the calendar, some of the most popular resolutions are those that focus on changing unhealthy habits. Whether you want to quit smoking, ease up on the number of cocktails you have a week, exercise daily, drink more water, or change your diet, a fresh new year represents a clean slate to rev up your willpower once again.
But exactly how long does it take to make a healthy habit stick?
The ’21 Days’ Hoax
Rumors that it takes only 21 days to form a habit have been debunked, but where exactly did that number come from? It’s believed that a book by Dr. Maxwell Maltz called Psycho-cybernetics, which was published in 1960, is probably to blame. In his book, Dr. Maltz, who was a plastic surgeon at the time, theorized that it took “a minimum” of 21 days for his patients to get used the work he had done on their bodies. Somewhere along the line, “minimum” was dropped, and people began to believe they could work miracles in less than a month.
According to studies done by University College London, the magic number of days it takes until something becomes automatic is right around 66. Researchers go on to quantify their findings by saying that personality and specific habits can increase or decrease that number.
Tips For Making It A Habit
If you want to raise the likelihood that your healthy resolutions will take, try doing them at the same time, or in the same space, every day. This primes your body to expect the behavior every time you go to that place or the clock strikes the time.
Telling people that you’re trying something new and asking them to hold you accountable is also a good way to keep yourself true to your healthy choices.
Writing a plan that includes specific steps toward realizing your goal (i.e instead of just saying “I’m going to stop smoking,” write out the specific ways you will accomplish it) is a third way to make sure your new healthy habit remains intact for the rest of the year.
This New Year’s Eve, when you clink glasses and promise yourself you’ll make changes, make sure those changes are things that can be sustained for a minimum of three months. If it feels doable, you’re on your way to having a healthy, happy new year!