How long does it take to form a habit? An average of 2 to 3 months, suggests research, but some habits may take more — or less— time than others.

Habits are those repetitive behaviours you do without much thought. They might be little things that have no true impact on your day, like drumming your hands on the table before dinner, or they may be actions that impact your health and wellness, like regular exercise. While habits aren’t easy to break, they aren’t the same as addictions; you have control over habits, and you can work toward new habit creation any time you want.

Habit formation can take an average of 59 to 70 days according to recent research. For example, if you want to implement the habit of flossing on a more consistent basis, you may plan to floss every morning after brushing your teeth. But the length of time it takes for a habit to be formed can vary from person to person, so you may not always see success in 2 months. Research suggests that implementing small changes daily that are time and location-based can encourage habitual behaviour change in about 10 weeks.

Habit vs. addiction
A habit is a behaviour you do with some regularity, and if taken away you might miss, but can fairly easily wait until the next time you can engage in the behaviour. An example would be having a habit of reading before bed. If you miss out on reading due to an event, it doesn’t cause you significant distress. You enjoy reading, but you don’t need it.

An addiction is a behaviour you do because you feel like you have to and there are chemical reactions happening in the brain that make that need real. With addiction there are negative consequences, like withdrawal symptoms, for not meeting that need or craving.

5 Tips to Form a New Habilt

To give yourself the best chance possible of meeting that 2 to 3 month average, these tips may make a difference.

1. Try to start small
Build the habit frequency slowly. If your goal is to read before bed every night, for example, you can start by reading before bed once a week.

2. Break down your goal into simple steps
You may be more likely to drop a behaviour the more difficult it feels. For example, if your goal is to exercise more, start by committing to walking for 10 minutes a day.

3. Consider having a habit buddy
Working toward habits with a friend or family member can help. Not only will this provide a source of support, it will also help you to hold each other accountable.

4. Set aside time everyday
Scheduling time for your new habit may help. Digital reminders and scheduling programs can offer a way for you to ensure there’s time in your day to honour your new habit. For instance, if you want to start meditating, decide that you will do it first thing in the morning for 10 minutes, in your bedroom before getting out of bed.

5. Remember to reward yourself
When you successfully perform the new behaviour, rewarding yourself with something you enjoy can provide a system of positive reinforcement.