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How Long Does it Take an Action to Become a Habit; 21, 28, or 66 Days?

Have you ever wondered this?  I know I have, and as an ADHDer it is especially hard, because often times you lose focus and are on to creating the next greatest thing a habit.  So you start a lot of great new approaches, but they never seem to stick.

Ann Graybiel of MIT’s McGovern Institute has shown through research that neurons change their firing patterns when habits are learned, and then change them again when unlearned. However, as soon as something kicks back in the habit, they are fired back up.  That is why it is so easy to pick back up negative addictions like smoking and drinking, but also why if you establish good habits but lose them, you can kick them back up much easier as well.

4 Comments to
How Long Does it Take an Action to Become a Habit; 21, 28, or 66 Days?

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  1. “I would argue 21 days to develop a bad habit, 66 to develop a good one to be on the safe side.”

    I guess that would depend on the habit… I’m sure in a controlled setting 21-28 days to do something you enjoy would be enough… But 60-70 days would be about right to make a unlike job/action habitual…

    We know as you stated that addictions is far different than a habit… Outside of drug addictions, I wonder when a habit is classified as an addiction or obsession?

  2. I want to say that I had used your blog to help me determine how long it would take for me to develop the habit of meditating daily. I took your advise of 66 days, and it worked. I now feel like something is missing if I delay or am unable to do my meditation for a day. Thank you for your blog.

    • Sally,
      I’m so glad to hear! I’ve been practicing meditation as well – 15 minutes twice a day. I must say I am not great at it – what did you use as incentive to go the 66 days? Strict willpower?
      Meditation has changed my life dramatically, I am so glad it is positively benefiting yours!

  3. I heard a podcast recently that said kids with ADHD don’t form habits the way other kids do. For non-ADHD kids, you reward/punish for a certain length of time and voila they have a habit. For ADHD kids, the second the reward or punishment is lifted, there is no incentive to continue the habit. I’m not sure how other ADHD adults feel, but I feel like I do only what I need to or really want to, and trying to make a habit is a lot of effort without the sticking power. There always has to be some motivation for me to do something.

    • Nat,
      I totally agree. That is why it is so helpful for me to understand the rationale behind the reward – the WHY I am getting the reward. i.e. Eating proper nutrition – I never completely understood the benefit to my brain and overall feeling of wellness.

  4. Although I have broken many habits, I want to developed a habit. For years I’ve been a person who hates to do chores. They are the bane of me. I realized that I NEED to instill good values in my children. I know this is a jump but it will be worth it. I’ve gone two days now doing what I hate most. I will continue to make progress. With your support and others around it will pay off. I will update you in 2 months to let you know my success and then again at 70 days. Best of luck to all who struggle with forming habits. 🙂

  5. This is very helpful to keep in mind! I have tried and failed the past to form a new habit. I get an urge to make a change or start doing something like exercising. Then I would extensively research and prepare for it (what exactly to do, how to do it, frequency, etc.) only to actually -do- it for a few days or a few weeks and then I quickly lose the motivation. I HATE that feeling of failure and you think that feeling alone would motivate someone to try again and suceed, but it’s just not enough.I really believe it does take someone with ADD/ADHD longer than ‘average’ to form or break a habit. I have never actually tried to do something for 66 days but I am going to go for it!

  6. I’m trying to create a new good habit,I’m in day 20, see if it works after day 67.

  7. Love this – great idea!