How long do those New Year’s resolution habits take time to form ?

2 months on average – but read on.

Many of us have made New Year resolutions: get more exercise, stop smoking, eat less, take up a new hobby – in an effort to improve our brain health. We want the new positive habit to take hold.

A new post at Dana Foundation gives us the low-down. In most cases we are trying to stop one habit and form a new one:

Two main ingredients to breaking bad habits are repetition and time. A recently published report by Phillippa Lally and her colleagues at University College London found that the average amount of time to form a new habit is 66 days.

While the average for the people involved in this study was just over 2 months there was a very wide range from 18 to 254 days.

Good news : bad news

The good news is you can skip a day while say forming your new positive habit of exercise and it doesn’t negavtively effect the learning of the new habit (but I wouldn’t recomment missing more than one day too often). But the bad news is:

But old habits are easy to resume, as reported in a 2005 study led by Dana Alliance member Ann Graybiel at MIT.

In an MIT report, Graybiel said, “We knew that 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.”

Try to avoid stress those bad habits are less likely to get reactivated.

Take home message: Keep at it for at least 2 months to get those positive habits ingrained in you.


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