Well, that depends on you. The general rule of thumb is that it takes 21 days to form a new habit, though research indicates it can take closer to 66 days, said Becky Hanzen, a Health Educator at Avera Medical Group Integrative Medicine.
It also depends on the person’s state of mind. If you’re in the right mindset you can break a bad habit in one day and never look back.
Becky and Kandace Brands, also a Health Educator with Integrative Medicine, help people talk through their challenges every day while working toward healthier lifestyles.
While everyone is different, they have some great tips for creating healthier habits and breaking with the ones that aren’t so healthy.
1. Plan for success. If you’re like the rest of us you’re busy, and people tend to do what’s easy when they’re busy, like stopping for fast food on the way home from work.
Start by picking a day to make your plan. Schedule events and activities that incorporate your healthy habit: exercise time, meal prep time and other important things like spiritual or family time.
Take it one step further by planning your meals for the week so you have healthy choices. Prepare as much as you can ahead of time (cut and roast vegetables, etc.)
2. Take a breather. If you’re trying to break a habit, such as emotional eating, take 10 minutes when you get a craving and think about why you want to do that activity or eat that food.
Sometimes it’s because your body is telling you you’re missing nutrients, Kandace said. A craving for salty foods can indicate a deficiency in minerals.
But that’s not always the case. People tend to eat emotionally or do other habits because something else in their life is lacking. Part of breaking the habit is figuring out what that is and filling the gap.
3. Make a list. If you have an urge to do something you’re trying to avoid, we’ve already said having a plan is the best way to go. Put it into action by creating a list of five things you can do instead and put it in a place where you’ll see it when you’re struggling. This would be different for everyone. Maybe it’s doing some deep breathing exercises, going for a walk or talking on the phone with a friend.
4. Fill the gap with healthier habits. Adding in more activity might be a great way to distract yourself from another habit you’re trying to break. This also relates to food cravings. If you’re trying to break the 3 p.m. habit of having a candy bar, fill the gap with a healthier option such as an apple or sweet vegetables.
If you’d like to learn more about health coaching, contact Integrative Medicine today.