Sharon Basaraba, an award-winning reporter and senior scientific communications advisor for Alberta Health Services in Alberta, Canada shared in “very well mind” that conventional wisdom tells us that it takes about four weeks to build a habit. But is that really true? If you’re trying to eat more nutritiously or live an anti-aging lifestyle generally, how long will it take for a new healthy habit to stick?
There’s no doubt that establishing regular healthy habits (or breaking bad ones) can improve your longevity. Once healthy behaviors — like quitting smoking, drinking only in moderation, or getting regular exercise — are entrenched into your regular schedule, you’re more likely to do them consistently.
Despite that, there’s surprisingly little research on how much time is actually required to establish a new habit. University College London epidemiologist Phillippa Lally examined the habit formation process in everyday life. Her study was published in 2010 in the European Journal of Social Psychology.
How Is a Habit Defined?
Doing something for the first time takes preparation and intention. With consistency, less attention thought, or effort must be paid. Lally describes a habit as a behavior that is repeated often enough so that over time, less conscious thought is required to make it happen. Rather, cues in a person’s environment or situations begin to trigger the behavior as an automatic response: it’s bedtime, so you brush your teeth (teeth-brushing has thus become a habit).
- It’s efficient
- You’re less aware that you’re doing it
- It’s unintentional
- It’s less controllable