How to Create a New Habit and Make it STICK


Here we are at the beginning of a new year and our minds fill with ideas about how we are going to make changes towards living a better life. You want to start meditating, exercising, waking up earlier or flossing twice a day.  But how long does it ACTUALLY take?  (Hint: longer than you think.)  What can you do to give it staying power?  (Hint: MANY things!)

Some have been under the assumption that starting a new habit only takes about 30 days. That has been a circulating rumor for a while. How frustrating to have a month come and go, only to find you are still not easily sprinting out of bed at 6:00 A.M. to run those 3 miles before work!

So, what’s the deal?  66 days.   

When Phillippa Lally and her team of researchers actually performed a behavioral study, it was found that SOME participants formed simpler habits in as little as 21 days, but some took up to 240 days and the MAJORITY established their new habits around 66 days.  

Here’s what you can do during those 66 days to set yourself up for success:

1)  Only try 1 new habit at a time (and take baby steps.)   

If you want to start exercising, begin with a commitment to 10 minutes a day instead of an hour to avoid overwhelm.

2)  Write it down.

Putting your goal in writing establishes a firmer commitment. Period.

3)  Set a reminder.  

Put an alert on your phone, or stick a post-it on your computer or bathroom mirror. DON’T just count on your brain to remind you.

4)   “Anchor” the habit and stay consistent.

Attach your new habit to an existing one and do it at the same time every day,  such as flossing your teeth right after you brush them, and always upon waking/ going to bed.  (Provided you brush your teeth twice a day!!)

5)  Remove triggers.

It may go without saying, but getting rid of all the cookies and your “secret stash” of cigarettes will make it all the harder to surrender to them in a tempting moment.

6)  Replace lost needs.

If your nightly glass of wine is associated with relaxation but you want to cut back on drinking, then replace it with another ritual like a cup of tea or a hot bath.

7)  Reframe your assumptions about yourself.

“I’m just not a morning person” can be reframed to “I didn’t used to get up early, but now I do.”

8)  Allow for imperfection.

It was also found that missing a day here or there did NOT hinder success. So, if things go awry, just resume the next day. No problem. 

Good Luck!