Number of Days Necessary for a New Habit to Form

2 February 2017

Introduction – Existing Papers’ Theories Habits are routines of behaviour inherently relevant to every single human. They are “repeated regularly and tend to occur subconsciously. Habitual behaviour often goes unnoticed in persons exhibiting it, because a person does not need to engage in self-analysis when undertaking routine tasks. Habituation is an extremely simple form of learning, in which an organism, after a period of exposure to a stimulus, stops responding to that stimulus in varied manners.The process by which new behaviors become automatic is habit formation. ” (Wikipedia, 2012) Throughout the years, different people have come up with different research findings that proposing different number of days of repetition required for this habit to be cultivated.

So what exactly is the number of days required to form a habit? 21, 40, 66? To find an answer to this, let us first look at a few of these great theories and research findings proposed. 1. 1. 21-Days Habit Theory—Dr Maxwell MaltzThis whole buzz about habit creation is believed to have been initiated by Dr. Maxwell Maltz in his book titled Psycho-Cybernetics. Dr Maltz introduced the 21-day period needed to forming a habit by repeatedly doing something for 21 days without any break in between. Initially, he noticed it took 21 days for amputees to cease feeling phantom sensations in the amputated limb.

Number of Days Necessary for a New Habit to Form Essay Example

Further research found that brain circuits take engrams (memory traces), and produce neuroconnections and neuropathways only if they are bombarded for 21 days in a row.This means that our brain does not accept new data for a change of habit unless it is repeated each day for 21 days (without missing a day). Thus, he concluded that it took 21 days to create a new habit (Psycho-Cybernetics, 1971). The essence of the technique Maltz proposed is simply to spend 15 minutes a day engaging in the actions of any habit you wish to create, and repeating this routine faithfully for 21 days. By the fourth week, it should become very natural to continue doing it. If you miss a day, just keep going until you’ve been doing the new behaviour for 21 days in a row.Maltz proposed that this method is applicable to all kinds of habits, be it a physical practice of jogging or a cognitive perception, like self image for instance.

He noticed a significant portion of his customers still retaining a poor self image even though the plastic surgery they had undergone had already improved their appearance. This prompted him to work with his clients’ self image before the surgery, by using the same 21-day period to create changes in their mindset. Surprisingly, he discovered he could assist them to acquire an improved self image without surgery. . 2. 40-Days Habit Theory—Ancient Scriptures According to yoga teachings and the book Yoga for Women, it is believed that it takes 40 days to change a bad habit into a positive one, 90 days to confirm the new habit in you, and 120 days to allow the new habit to 1 become who you are (Yoga for Women, 2002). One hundred seventy-six students from twelve different states and four countries participated in Chicago for a 40-days meditation, as they believe that it takes 40 days for this habit of meditation to become completely integrated into the subconscious mind.

Many ancient scriptures wrote that 40 days is a length of time required for enacting change. If one is consistent with the practice, he can clear old subconscious patterns, set up new positive patterns and change your life for the better. 1. 3. 66 Days Habit Theory—Phillippa Lally A very recent new research by Phillippa Lally and colleagues from the Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Research Centre proposed that one needs at least 66 days of repeated behaviour on average in order to establish a habit. However, the range, Lally found, is anywhere from 18 to over 254 days. To investigate the process of habit formation in everyday life, 96 volunteers chose an eating, drinking or activity behaviour to carry out daily in the same context (for example ‘after breakfast’) for 12 weeks.

They completed the self-report habit index (SRHI) each day and recorded whether they carried out the behaviour. The majority (82) of participants increases in automaticity were examined over the study period. Nonlinear regressions fitted an asymptotic curve to each individual’s automaticity scores over the 84 days.The model fitted for 62 individuals, of whom 39 showed a good fit. Performing the behaviour more consistently was associated with better model fit. The time it took participants to reach 95% of their asymptote of automaticity ranged from 18 to 254 days; indicating considerable variation in how long it takes people to reach their limit of automaticity and highlighting that it can take a very long time. Missing one opportunity to perform the behaviour did not materially affect the habit formation process.

With repetition of a behaviour in a consistent context, automaticity increases following an asymptotic curve which can be modelled at the individual level. ” (Phillippa Lally, 2009-2010) Lally also discovered that the behaviour for first habit formation is cue-dependent. In order to carry out a behaviour you want to establish as a habit, you need an exposure to a cue that serves as a “reminder” to perform the action. Such cues can be either situational, (such as your environment or location) or contextual (based on something else that you do).A situational cue example would be a toothbrush or a sink in cueing you to brush your teeth. Contextual cues include performance location, preceding actions in a sequence, other people associated with the habit (Verplanken, et al. , 1998; Wood ; Neal, 2007), specific time of day, and even particular mood (Wood, Tam, ; Witt, 2005).

A contextual cue example for remembering to eat a piece of fruit before eating breakfast every morning would be getting out of bed in the morning or reaching the time of day when you’re about to eat breakfast. Phillippa Lally, 2009-2010) 1. 4. Other findings about habits Ann Graybiel of MIT’s McGovern Institute has shown through research why old habits die hard after conducting experiments using a rat and placing a chocolate as a reward at the end of one of the 2 pathway, using audible tones as cues indicating which arm of the maze contains the reward. Subsequently, the reward was removed, and later on put back after some time but the rat still retains memory of that habit, and picks it up instantly.According to Graybiel, “Neurons can change their firing patterns when habits are learned, but it is startling to find that these patterns reverse when the habit is lost, only to recur again as soon as something kicks off the habit again, That is why it is so easy to pick back up negative addictions like smoking and drinking, but also why if you establish good habits but lose them, you can kick them back up much easier as well. Our brain retains a memory of the habit context, and this pattern can be triggered if the right habit cues come back.

This situation is familiar to anyone who is trying to lose weight or to control a well-engrained habit. Just the sight of a piece of chocolate cake can reset all those good intentions. ” (Delude, 2005) 1. 5. Papers’ Proposed Factors Affecting Effectiveness of Habit Formation One factor affecting the effectiveness of formation of the habit is the consistency of the time at which you repeat the behaviour. Maltz proposed that it will help if the behaviour being repeated, such as jogging, is performed at the same time of day every day.On the other hand, although Lally also proposes that consistency is essential in the effectiveness of habit formation, her method is more flexible in the sense that one can actually skip a day without having to restart the day count, only that you have go right back to performing the desired action the next day.

Another factor proposed by Maltz is the use of other senses to establish the habit. For example, if to establish the habit of meditating, you can reinforce the practice by wearing the same clothing, burning the same incense, occupying the same location, and assuming the same posture.The more senses you can involve in the new habit, the more likely it is to become ingrained in the neural pathways, so, even if you’re working on your self image in a mental construct, it’s helpful to use all the faculties of your imagination to include sights, sounds, smells, and the senses of feeling and taste to strengthen the image which you come to associate with your new self image. In other words, make it seem as real as possible. (PsychoCybernetics, 1971). 3 2. 0.

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