You’ve probably heard that it takes 21 days to build a habit. Allegedly, this was how long it took people in the 20th century to adapt to a limb amputation. This number (21) is not generalizable and it may discourage you if your new habit takes longer. The solution? Be Realistic about How Long Habits Take to Build.
University of Southern California professor Wendy Wood, Ph.D., found that study subjects who wanted to build healthy habits (e.g., eat more fruit or drink more water) took an average of 66 days, with a range of 18 to 254 days. 254 days! Thank goodness they didn’t believe it was 21 or done. As Wood put it, “The length of time it takes to establish new habits depends on the person and the complexity of the behavior.” Boundary-setting will take longer than flossing. So take heart and don’t give up!