There must be 1,001 studies carried out to see how long it takes to break a habit, or form a new one.
If you Google it (other search engines are available) the main answer seems to be 21 days, but a recent study says more like 66 days…so seems safe to say it’ll take a month or two.
Habits can be anything can’t they? Personally I’ve done the biting nails, picking split-ends (can’t do that with short hair), smoking (5yrs smoke-free), eating a bag of sweets a day, walking the dog the same walk every day, doing the same workout each time I go to the gym, only choosing the same drink or cake in a café, or having the same meal each visit to McDonalds (other food outlets are available). You might find it's getting in from the school run and standing ironing for 30 mins or hoovering for an hour, or sitting down and losing an hour or two watching the telly; they’re all a habit of some sort and they’re really difficult to try and change when you’ve done the same thing for so long (at least 21-66 days!).
Giving up something is hard; I know that it is hard to give up a lifestyle that you’ve led for a very long time, it really is difficult, but that doesn’t mean that it’s difficult forever. It’s difficult to cook meals from scratch every single day, it’s difficult to change a workout routine that you’re comfortable with and you enjoy, because let’s face it, something new is likely to mean something harder (for a while at least), it’s difficult to consider giving yourself a bit of time to improve yourself and not worry about anyone else for a while.
To make a change you have to get out of that comfort zone, you have to do something different to see something different happen. But giving up old habits is hard and they are comfortable and if you give something up then it just makes you crave it even more and then eventually you think about it so much that you just give in and then you spend way too long feeling bad about it that you end up feeling worse than when you’d said you wanted to try and make a positive change to start with!
Perhaps rather than say that you’re going to give up something, change the wording and say what it is that you are going to do instead.
If you want to stop eating so many chips at dinnertime, don’t say that you’re giving up chips; say that you’re going to spend the next month choosing New Potatoes to go with dinner instead of chips. You aren’t saying you are giving them up; you’ve just found an alternative for a period of time. You won’t be hungry, you’ll still be getting the same foodstuff, just in a different format. It will break the habit over a period of time and you’ll find you stop reaching for the chips in the freezer when you go to make dinner…new potatoes are a damn sight quicker to cook too! And yes, of course you’re not going to live your life without chips, but if that is your weakness then there is a solution to be found, if you really want to find it.
If your habit is to get in from work, cook dinner, eat, sit, bath kids, watch tv; maybe introduce a walk after dinner for everyone. It doesn’t even have to be far, just pop around the block for 15 minutes to get some air, have a conversation that you wouldn’t have had if you’d stayed in and then guess what? You’re getting 15 minutes of activity in at the same time as spending some time together – for free! As well as probably finding out something about someone’s day because there aren't the usual distractions.
If you always do what you’ve always done; you’ll always get what you’ve always got.
So maybe it’s time to stop giving up and embrace trying something new instead.