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I Have Bad Habits! Change Strategy: Understanding, Starting, and Sustaining New Habits

Breaking bad and old habits and forming new ones can be a difficult journey. Whether it’s adopting healthier lifestyle choices, increasing productivity, or prioritizing self-care, changing our habits requires effort and perseverance. In this blog post, we explore why altering habits is often difficult and we provide practical tips to kickstart the habit change process. Additionally, we discuss how long it takes to initiate a new habit and how long it takes for it to become ingrained.

Why Changing Habits Is So Difficult

  • Neurological Pathways: Habits are deeply ingrained in the neurological pathways in our brains. When we repeat a behavior consistently, it becomes automatic, operating on a subconscious level. Disrupting these established pathways and creating new ones requires rewiring the brain, which can be challenging and time-consuming, although very possible.
  • Comfort Zones: Habits provide a sense of familiarity and comfort, even if they are not beneficial. Stepping outside our comfort zones and adopting new behaviors can trigger discomfort and resistance. The fear of the unknown and the discomfort associated with change can slow habit change efforts.
  • Environmental Triggers: Our surroundings and daily routines often trigger existing habits. These environmental cues create powerful associations that can be challenging to overcome. Breaking free from familiar triggers and establishing new cues to prompt desired behaviors requires effort and intentionality.

How to Start Changing Habits

  • Identify and Understand Triggers: Reflect on the situations, emotions, or cues that prompt the undesired habit. By recognizing the triggers, you can develop strategies to minimize their influence and consciously respond differently.
  • Set Clear Goals: Clearly define the new habit you want to establish and set achievable goals. Break down the habit change process into smaller, manageable steps to maintain motivation and build momentum.
  • Replace Rather than Eliminate: Instead of focusing solely on eliminating a habit, aim to replace it with a healthier or more desirable behavior. Shifting the focus to a positive alternative makes the process more manageable and rewarding.
  • Create Accountability: Share your habit change goals with a trusted friend or family member who can provide support and hold you accountable. Consider joining a group or seeking professional guidance to reinforce your commitment.

How Long Does It Take to Change a Habit?

The time required to change a habit varies depending on multiple factors, including the complexity of the habit and individual differences. Contrary to the popular notion that it takes 21 days to form a habit, research suggests that the timeline can range from a few weeks to several months. Studies indicate that on average, it takes around 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic and ingrained. However, this timeframe can differ significantly for each person, highlighting the importance of patience and persistence.

Changing habits can be challenging due to deeply ingrained neural pathways, comfort zones, and environmental triggers. However, with the right strategies and right mindset, it is possible to initiate and sustain changing a habit. By identifying triggers, setting clear goals, replacing old habits, and creating accountability, individuals can take steps towards adopting healthier behaviors. Remember that habit change is a personal journey, and timelines for forming new habits can vary. By cultivating patience, perseverance, and self-compassion, individuals can gradually reshape their habits and foster positive, lasting change in their lives.

Here is a video that challenged our team at The Pursuit Counseling to incorporate these ideas and research tools into the work we do with our clients. One takeaway from the video is: “The only road to individual dignity and sustained existential happiness is to adopt an ethos of personal agency. You are the ultimate architect of your own happiness, so get to work.” -Gad Saad

Are you ready to take the first step on your Pursuit towards a happier, healthier you? We invite you to book your free 20-minute consultation with one of our skilled therapists. Don’t wait; it’s time to invest in your well-being. Simply click “Book Now”  to start your Pursuit towards personal growth and positive change today.

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