“All bad habits start slowly and gradually and before you know you have the habit, the habit has you.” Zig Zagler
Everyone in this world has the bad habit, and no one is there who doesn’t want to get rid of those bad habits. But the onerous task is to reach the result. Actually, we start falling into evil habits without any intimation and that could negatively affect our health and wellness. Bad habits keep us away from the miracles.
Bad habits may vary from overeating of junk foods, smoking, drinking, more sleeping hours to addiction of social media etc.. It becomes a real struggle of our life to get freedom from their firm grip on our lives.
How long does it actually take to form a new habit?
You must have heard so many times that a habit takes 21 days to get formed. But science doesn’t reveal it. Maxwell Maltz was a plastic surgeon in the 1950s when he began noticing a peculiar pattern among his patients. When Dr. Maltz would perform an operation like a facial surgery, he found that it would take the patient about 21 days to get used to seeing their face. These experiences prompted Maltz to think about his own adjustment period to changes and behaviors, and he noticed that it also took himself about 21 days to form a new habit.
Maltz wrote about these experiences and said, “These, and many other commonly observed phenomena tend to show that it requires a minimum of 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell.”
When his quote got published then the society started spreading the common myth that it takes 21 days to form a new habit but they lost the word ‘minimum’ that had the maximum value In the sentence. When many people say something enough times then everyone else starts to believe it. “21 days” myth would spread because the time frame is short enough to be inspiring but long enough to be believable.
Later on, more studies were investigated; on the basis of those studies we can just say that with very diligent focus and high emotional charge, it may take about 21 days. But on an average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior is converted into habit. But still it can vary widely depending on the behavior, person and the circumstances.
Why is it always hard to give away a bad habit?
In fact, our habits are driven by a 3- part loop in sequence.
- Trigger – the stimulus that starts the habit
- Routine – frequency of performing the task
- Reward – the benefit associated with the behavior
Let’s have an example we have the bad habit of smoking at the interval of 1 hour each. Our habit loop could look like this:
- Trigger – stress from continuous work or something else
- Routine – Smoking at the interval of 1 hour
- Reward – Temporary relief to feel better
Each time we repeat this behavior pattern we imbibe the habit more deep.
It can be so hard to break a bad habit, is because there are parts of our brain that associate our cravings with bad habits. Don’t give up ,till there is a ray of hope. If we want to change a habit within a few weeks, we need to put lots of efforts to change our daily routine. It takes a lot of preparation, charge of our emotions and yeah of course being aware of our triggers. The better we know the triggers of our bad habit, the better we get the results. The moment, we are hit by an urge to repeat the bad habit, we need to put our foot backward and be aware of the thirst of the trigger in our mind. All those factors can accelerate the change of our routine.
I read somewhere, the secret of permanently breaking any bad habit is to love something greater than the habit.
I also have figured it out by my experience that it’s not possible for anyone to get rid of bad habits directly. We need to replace the bad habit with good one or any alternate. For an example, if we want to get rid of smoking, we need to replace a cigarette by a chewgum.
If-Then Plan (given by Peter Gollwitzer)
If we really want to replace a bad habit by good one, we can’t only rely on our goal setting. Because all of us must have heard that a goal without an action plan is a dream only.
For example, I am habitual of sleeping till late in the morning. But I want a fit and well shaped body. Since, I leave my bed late in the morning then I don’t find time to exercise daily.
Now my goal is to get a fit and well shaped body and action plan is thirty minutes exercise daily.
Put this exercise into if-then plan: If I want to achieve fit and well shaped body, then I need to get up early in the morning and do thirty minutes exercise daily. This practice seems very simple still very effective.
I found myself into addiction of playing cricket game on my smart phone then I tried to overcome this addiction but I found it very complex. I replaced that game with my passion of writing. I started writing, so slowly and steadily my trigger of playing cricket game has been replaced by writing articles.
No matter how much time a new habit takes to inculcate by our mind or body, we shouldn’t step back. The first three days are the mountains; we must have the mental endurance to scale each one. If we are really looking for desired and ideal outcomes then we will have to break the habit of being ourselves. Every positive change starves for our patience and perseverance.
Stop procrastination and kick off to new good habits !