A new habit

21 days to a new habit

Research shows that it takes 21 days to develop a habit. That’s 21 days of going to the gym every day or exercising in some way every day, 21 days to meditation, 21 days to eat healthily, 21 days doing, 21 days of anything.

When you want to start a habit, don’t tell yourself you are doing it for life, tell yourself (your conscious brain) that you are going to try it for 21 days. For example if you want to start the habit of meditating tell your conscious self that you are trying it for 21 days. Now, when you have completed this for 21 days your conscious mind has the choice of stopping it or carrying on, or so it thinks. Your neural pathways have formed already and you will more than likely continue with your new habit, you will have seen the benefits along the way your unconscious will want to continue if it has been beneficial.

This can also work when trying to break a habit, however research has shown that the neural pathways to any habit could be lifelong and a cue or a trigger can cause us to start back up an old habit, like smoking.

This is not a bad thing; we just have to be aware of our thoughts when we have given up a habit such as smoking.

When starting or breaking any habit we tend to tell our conscious mind we are going to change and it’s for life. Your conscious mind will just say ‘is that right? I’m in charge here, I’ll decide’ so there will be a battle between your two sides of your conscious mind.

If you tell your mind you want to try something for 21 days it won’t be so unwilling to co-operate. This might sound a little strange when I say ‘talking to your conscious’ as it is your conscious talking to your conscious. We all know we have conversations with ourselves, should I go to the pub should I not, should I go to the gym should I not. There are a hundred conversations we have with ourselves everyday.

When we want to start something or give up something, smoking for example, you might normally say to yourself ‘right that’s it I’m giving up for good’. Immediately your brain kicks in and says no smoking for life, and then it starts to think of all the situations it likes a good cigarette in; first thing in the morning with a cup of coffee, going out for a drink at night, at work when you’re a bit stressed, just after sex etc. Your brain thinks ‘lack of’ instead of the benefits of. It can’t really think as clearly about the benefits because it hasn’t yet had the benefits of giving up smoking but it knows the supposed pleasures that smoking brings.

So what habits can we start for 21 days?

I have made a list for myself that I am in the middle of doing;

• Give up sweets for 21 days

• Meditate for 21 days

• Write in the blog every day for 21 days

• Get up before 6am every day (I’ve actually made this a habit now)

• Drink a vegetable juice for 21 days

This is just a small list of the things I am doing. Feel free to share you 21 day new habits.

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About Steven Aitchison

I am the creator of Change Your Thoughts (CYT) blog and love writing and speaking about personal development, it truly is my passion. There are over 500 articles on this site from myself and some great guest posters.
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Comments

  1. Loved the article Steven!
    I find it really hard to wake up early in the morning
    Hope this 21 days technique will help me

    Thanks
    Joan
    Joan recently posted..What are the treatment/cure of cancer ?

  2. work out on 21 day’s or 27day’s or 30 day’s habit. At least i believe if you decide you mind to change your habit or create a new habit and will keep doing it. Your brain will give your body the sign to cooperate your plan. That’s the power of the unconscious. Our body is very magical, it will bring you unexpected surprise. So, keep doing your plan and enjoy your life.

  3. Hi,

    Yes I believe in this theory I completed a 21 day no facebook ban because I was so heavily addicted that I was checking facebook at work. I would compare (sadly) other people’s lives to mine at what stage they where up to in their life etc. etc. it turned me into the green eyed monster. However, I don’t think you should complete to many in a row maybe 3 at the most. The brain responds to things in three’s better (another study). I’m currently completing a leadership course at work and we do a lot of neural studies. Very interesting how our brains work.
    I’m now at the start of completing 21 days of jogging at least 1km a day, eventually I want to build up to 2km’s in 21 days, etc. etc. I’m just taking it as it comes. Any major change or changes you make can also have a negative effect. I had a meltdown the first week of no facebook, but it made me realise and re-assess myself and what I really needed.
    Good luck, read up on it as much as you can and so will I!
    Miss J recently posted..50 Personal Development Posts that Will Inspire Change

  4. Somewhere I’ve heard that it was 27 days to make or break a habit. Either way I’m on day 10 of my 27 day mission of going to the gym everyday and have already lost 10 pounds. Even if my mission falters at the end of the 27 days I’ll have reaped plenty of benefits from trying. Although I have already started to notice that I’m beginning to enjoy my gym time more as each day passes. :)

  5. Nice topic! :)

    Most people think the 21 day rule is and unscientific and sometimes silly. Why? Because some article? Or because you really tried it yourself.

    I like science, but I love trying things. 30 days is a great rule for me. While changing my habits, it changed my life. Call it pop-psychology, call it self-help-rules, I don’t mind, it works for me.

    • No, most people think that if you say something like that you NEED to supply scientific evidence.

      Do you need 21 days of heroin to become addicted to it? Doubt so. Do you need 21 days of not having sex for it to become an habit? Again, doubt so.

  6. Hi Steven.. Hey guys..
    I am gonna begin with the implementation of this theory for building a few habits which are must for my worklife balance.
    Hope it proves fruitful.

  7. I think the 21 day rule is silly, and unscientific.
    I can’t find the article I read recently about new research saying it may take up to 9 months to effectively implement a new habit -but here’s something anyway.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/oct/10/change-your-life-habit-28-day-rule

  8. Do you have as much success starting numerous habits at the same time? My concern is that I have so many new habits that I want to have but I fear that if I start them all at once it will be too hard. But I find it hard to prioritize them in order to choose just one to start. Please respond to my email address or my blog as I coicidentally don’t have a habit of reading RSS subscriptions.

    Cheers,
    http://www.melodychapman.com

    Melody’s great blog post..Beeping Toms

  9. I agree with your article and I’m starting a project to see if we can prove it on a grand scale.

    Check out CREATE THE LIFE! group on Facebook and start the super-easy first week challenge. A completed challenge (of your choosing) each week will lead to 4 accomplished goals in a month (that will be 12 goals in one Quarter!). And you’ll be doing it alongside other Facebook members, so you can share your successes and get new ideas. Give it a try!

    Lilly

  10. michelle says:

    I want to start walking with my Mom, she needs it as I do too! Her for Health reasons, me to loose wheight. see you in 7 days! Broke it up into sections to make it easier. Michelle

  11. This may answer you question.

    “Dr Maxwell Maltz wrote the bestseller Psycho-Cybernetics.
    Originally a Plastic Surgeon, Maltz noticed that it took
    21 days for amputees to cease feeling phantom sensations
    in the amputated limb. From further observations he found
    it took 21 days to create a new habit.” Since then the ’21
    Day Habit Theory’ has become an accepted part of self-help
    programs.

    Brian

  12. thank you for ur insite. im beginning my 21 days of excersie and playing with my son more.

  13. I am wondering if there has been a response about the research citings requests. I don’t see any am I looking in the wrong place?

    Thanks

  14. Which research shows? What is your source? I’m writing a paper. Thanx.

  15. Agreed, references and citation are basic requirements when stating research backed “facts”. It’s not that I’m unwilling to consider the possibility that its correct or effective, but I’m also wary of the self-help placebo feel-good revolution thats become ever so popular in the last 2 decades, and this is coming from someone who works in the alternative medicine field btw. There is of course good evidence that thinking positively promotes health, and negative the reverse, but there is no substitute for solid, reproducible, carefully controlled experimentation that repeatedly (if not exclusively) yields predictable results. Any help you could give me regarding this would be much appreciated – and it might not be a bad idea to include said information with this page, assuming you have it that is.

    Thanks much.

    g

  16. interested visitor says:

    Hi,

    you write “Research shows that it takes 21 days to develop a habit.”

    Could you point me to the relevant research?

    Thanks.

  17. do you have a source for the research that shows it takes 21 days to create a new habit? I read somewhere that in the 21 days new neural pathways are created, but I’d like to see some citations. Thanks

Trackbacks

  1. […] Research shows that it takes 21 days to develop a habit.  […]

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  3. […] – hence it’s aptly called “National Novel Writing Month” or Nanowrimo. I have heard that you form habits by doing a particular thing every single day in a row for a m… and Nanowrimo, I think, is banking on this concept. In fact, Nanowrimo have actually helped people […]

  4. [...] suggested as sufficient duration to make or break a habit. Of course, there are arguments both supporting and refuting this, but I like the number and the 3 week duration seems good enough to start with.  [...]

  5. [...] a great amount of time for creating new habits and sticking with it. As they say, it only takes 21 days for something to become a habit (yes, for all you naysayers I do know that’s based on [...]

  6. [...] use the power of habit to make their products and stores successful. They say that it takes 21 days of repetitive behavior to create a habit, but Duhigg gives us the recipe for recognizing habits in ourselves that we might [...]

  7. [...] “Research shows that it takes 21 days to develop a habit. That’s 21 days of going to the gym every day or exercising in some way every day, 21 days to meditation, 21 days to eat healthily, 21 days doing, 21 days of anything.”(from http://www.stevenaitchison.co.uk/blog/a-new-habit/) [...]

  8. [...] your life if you practice focused mindful uptime and more relaxing downtime. Why not try it for 21 days and make it a habit or just let it go if it doesn’t work for [...]

  9. [...] Here’s the thing, every time you do this exercise click your fingers twice as soon as you have finished doing it. And pretty soon you should be able to change your state by clicking your fingers twice. Try it for 21 days [...]

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  11. My Habits says:

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  12. [...] wrote an article about starting a new habit which I have used myself and it gave me motivation to try other things, stopping sweets, writing [...]

  13. [...] mentioned before in my article on 21 days to a new habit I am giving up sweets for 21 days. I thought I would give you a quick update on how it’s [...]

  14. [...] say it takes 21 days to form a new habit. If you want to be a fit person you are going to have to get yourself into the habit of working [...]

  15. [...] Habits are hard to break. Why? Because you need to rewire your brain to make it focus on a new activity.  Your brain has gotten comfortable with the old activities in the same way you’ve gotten comfortable with routine tasks.  It takes 21 days of conscious effort for your brain to create neural pathways to support the new behavior and turn it into a habit.  [...]

  16. [...] a little every day and see how many days you can go (preferably 21 days) without forgetting to pick up your flute and play for at least 10 minutes.  Write and tell me if [...]

  17. [...] as I launched this personal challenge. I also understood from conventional wisdom that it takes 21 days to change a habit, and I had become a habitual social media user. So I figured 29 days without social media would [...]

  18. [...] HabitMarch 17, 2011 By MichaelRunner 5 CommentsThey say it takes 21 days to create a habit. Try it. Do anything 21 days in a row and see how it becomes ingrained in your routine. It just hit me today as I glanced at the last 30 [...]

  19. [...] takes 21 days to make a habit right?  Read this blog entry titled “A New Habit” written by Steven Aitchison on his blog called  ”Change your thoughts, Change your [...]

  20. [...] goals along the way. So here’s what I’m going to do, I’m going to create some new habits. “They” say that a habit can be created in 21 days. I don’t know why 21 is the lucky number, but there is [...]

  21. [...] better about the fact that I did get up today and head out after all).  The theory that it takes 21 days to change a new habit looks to be based on how long it takes to make a new brain pathway or [...]

  22. [...] week 3 draws to a close tomorrow. They say that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. I think that I could agree with that. I think that eating differently has definitely become a part [...]

  23. [...] can’t take a photo every day. It takes roughly 21 days to form a habit. Can you commit to 21 days of daily photos? I went roughly two months this year without regularly [...]

  24. [...] from a dormant phase in the blogersphere and ii) i have set myself a 21 day challenge to test out the theory that if you do something every day for 21 days it will become a [...]

  25. [...] i would like to create, but also those that i could break. So that simple Google Search lead me to a blog post by a guy called Steven Aitchison. Steven writes a very interesting blog focused around ‘positive thinking and challenging the [...]

  26. [...] from a dormant phase in the blogersphere and ii) i have set myself a 21 day challenge to test out the theory that if you do something every day for 21 days it will become a [...]

  27. [...] i would like to create, but also those that i should break. So that simple Google Search lead me to a blog post by a guy called Steven Aitchison. Steven writes a very interesting blog focused around ‘positive thinking and challenging the [...]

  28. [...] in doing. You will have to make sacrifices, if not right away then down the line. They say it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. Use that. Try it out. It’s going to be trial and error at first. Don’t get frustrated. [...]

  29. [...] because we are in a habit of doing things a certain way. As you might already know, it takes 21 days to change a habit and really, this is the only thing that stands between you and your bad habit right [...]

  30. [...] In another few days or weeks, keeping the house clean and organized will become habit [...]

  31. [...] It might seem a lot to do everyday but you only need to do a few exercises at a time. Remember: little and often. I’ve been on this regime for about 2 weeks now and am amazed at how much strength and flexibility I’ve gained. Why not challenge yourself to do this for the next 21 days? Why 21? Well, it seems that’s how long it takes to form a habit. [...]

  32. [...] Downtime and uptime go hand in hand and you can greatly enhance your life if you practice focused mindful uptime and more relaxing downtime. Why not try it for 21 days and make it a habit or just let it go if it doesn’t work for you. [...]

  33. [...] A new habitA new habit August 18, 2006 Posted by enquiries in : Goal setting, Science, Motivation, Health, Just do it, Alternative Health, My thoughts, Blogging… [...]

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