The Science Behind Forming (And Kicking) a Habit

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There’s a lot of misinformation floating around about how habits are formed and how long it takes. Right now, the big idea is that it takes 21 days to make a new habit. Many diets, behavioral change plans and budget agendas are sold as 21-day processes. There’s some power behind it, but it turns out breaking a habit actually takes a bit longer. Usually, when you’re forming a new habit, you’re also breaking an old one. It's also good idea to get the entire family on board.

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A habit is behavioral, rooted in the psyche and driven by the routine chemical reactions your brain has been conditioned to. Say you love blueberry muffins and you have one for breakfast every morning. You condition your brain’s receptors to anticipate that muffin, or crave it. If you don’t get the muffin, you’ll have to get it eventually because not only do you crave it, but now you’re addicted to the feeling it gives you. What happens is you form a chemical addiction that perpetuates a habit.

It can take less than 21 days or nearly a year for a new habit to feel natural. It comes down to self-control and perseverance for both kicking or creating a habit. Those first 21 days have a big learning curve, and the gains after that seems to diminish. So, expect it be difficult the first few weeks when it comes to navigating it, and then for it become difficult in terms of maintaining it. They say, “you are what you continually do.”

>> Read more: How Your Living Environment Can Influence Your Eating Habits