How habits are formed?

Updated: Oct 3, 2019

Habits are tricky things that stick.

We pick up negative and harmful habits fairly quicker than we do the good ones.

But that’s just human tendency.

If we’re told we shouldn’t do something, we end up doing it anyway and perhaps continue doing it over and over again.

So how does a habit form and how long does it take to form habits? Let’s elaborate and understand.

A habit, according to Science and Psychology, is made up of three parts, also known as the habit loop. These parts comprise a cue, a behaviour and a reward.

A cue is a circumstance or situation or anything else that triggers the mind to try something for a first time.

A behaviour is when the cue becomes a recurring action.

The reward is the satisfaction you gain by accomplishing or completing a task and gives you motivation to form a habit of it.

Recommended Read: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

There are lots of habits or behaviours in our day-to-day life that seem difficult at first but are now second nature. Such as: riding a bike, driving, typing, swimming are some such behaviours.

How long does it take to form these habits?

It was said that it takes about 3 weeks or 21 days for a habit to form.

However, according to new research by Phillippa Lally (University of London), she

and her team say that it takes 2 months (66 days) for a habit to become automatic.

 Of course, these numbers vary from person to person and situation to situation. For now, let's say, 66 days answers the question, ‘how long does it take to change behaviour’?

Like we mentioned early on, it is way easier for us to pick up bad habits than pick up good ones, because a lot of bad or toxic habits make us feel good in the short run, but the long term consequences are, in a word, harmful.

By toxic habits, we don’t just mean consuming alcohol or smoking or the like. They range from watching too much TV to sleeping too much, from overeating to eating unhealthy food. 

On the contrary, if we’re told to wake up early, eat healthy or start an exercise regimen, it would take us that much longer and demand a lot more effort from us. However, if one can manage to accomplish these tasks for a minimum of 3 to 4 weeks, they will help immensely in the long run.

How can you form positive, life changing habits, be motivated enough to follow through and become limitless? Hopefully, we can answer the question.

If you’ve read our other blogs, you will find that we stress on the impact of goals and goal-setting. Habits are not much different from that.

Make forming positive habits your goal, and do everything in your power to break the habits that affect you adversely. Try following these steps:

1. Set a day and time: As people, we have a tendency so say a lot of things but act upon very few. Instead of saying, ‘I need to quit smoking’ or ‘I need to go for a run’, phrase your sentences like ‘I will smoke less today’ or ‘I will go for a run first thing tomorrow’, and along with that, set the precise time and an accompanying alarm to make sure you’re on your feet as soon as it rings.

2. Follow through for 3 weeks: Do what you’ve set out to do for a minimum 3 weeks. As we said earlier, it takes at least that long for a habit to form and if you’ve followed it sincerely enough, then chances of success are likely

3. Keep a habit checker: Keep a track of your habits. You can do it yourself, ask a friend or family member who will make sure you stick to your routine, come what may. You can also take the assistance of your smart phone to download habit checker apps that help you make progress in a more effective way.

4. Don’t overdo it: Whether it’s trying to break an on old habit or trying to form a new one, make sure you tackle one habit at a time. If you take up more than one thing at a time, chances are you would become overwhelmed and will not be able to focus on anything at all.

Perhaps the biggest thing that can help you form positive habits to enhance your life is motivation. Without motivation, this entire exercise is futile. You have to believe in yourself and value yourself enough to know that you deserve only the best. That is the one and only mantra to accomplish anything you want and to become limitless.

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