Number of Days Necessary for a New Habit to Form

Topics: Motivation, Maxwell Maltz, Addiction Pages: 18 (5591 words) Published: October 12, 2012
1.0. 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 Maltz

This 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. 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. 1.2. 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


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...
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