Starting and Stopping Habits

Habits—both good and bad ones—aren’t the easiest to start and stop. Breaking a bad habit feels impossible, and starting a new one (such as going to the gym…) isn’t an easy task either.

Ben D. Gardner, writing for UCL’s ‘Health Chatter’ blog:

The bottom line is: stay strong. 21 days is a myth; habit formation typically takes longer than that. The best estimate is 66 days, but it’s unwise to attempt to assign a number to this process. The duration of habit formation is likely to differ depending on who you are and what you are trying to do. As long as you continue doing your new healthy behaviour consistently in a given situation, a habit will form. But you will probably have to persevere beyond January 21st.

A simple little tool to help you manage a habit is to use sticky notes. If you’re desk-bound, put 66 small labels along the side of your monitor (each marked 1-66). Simply tear one off each day you managed to get closer to the 66 day mark. Tearing and throwing away the little label helps you get a sense of achievement and hence helps you stick to your goal (whether it’s starting or stopping a habit).

I’ll be working towards stopping a bad habit, so fingers crossed I keep tearing off those labels and managing to stay bad-habit free each of the 66 days! After this, the bad habit should be a thing of the past, or so the theory says…

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