While it has been suggested that changing habits will result in a life that is longer and fuller, you may need to allow several months to pick up whatever new habits you wish to acquire.
Recent research into the subject found it takes about 66 days before a new habit becomes automatic to the point you no longer need to prompt yourself to do what you want to, though in some cases it may take the best part of nine months for a new activity to become routine.
The average time to reach maximum automaticity was 66 days, although this varied greatly between participants from 18 days to a predicted 254 days (assuming the still rising rate of change in automaticity at the study end were to be continued beyond the study’s 84 days). This is much longer than most previous estimates of the time taken to acquire a new habit – for example a 1988 book claimed a behaviour is habitual once it’s been performed at least twice a month, at least ten times. In fact, even after 84 days, about half of the current study participants had failed to achieve a high enough automaticity score for their new behaviour to be considered a habit.
The key to living a long and varied life it seems is to shrug off your habits and interests every couple of years (decades?) and learn to do new things, and/or learn to do things differently. This would of course have the effect of making you a jack of many trades rather than a master of one or two… a small price to pay though?
Want to live forever? Break your habits. Do things you don’t know how to do and foreswear the routine. Walk where you would normally drive. Crawl where you would normally walk. Make a friendship with someone in a new language. Put down that cigarette! Or take up that cigarette! Leave your marriage. Give yourself over to something different. Make yourself a beginner. If you do this, each day will become an eternity. You won’t live forever, but it will seem like forever.
Having a good memory has its drawbacks, as we may come to overly rely on our recall to find many of life’s necessities, such as food.
If, for instance, we never forget where the supermarket is, then we may lose the ability to keep our options open when it comes to sourcing food. Those with a poor memory will forget the location of one supermarket though, and develop the habit of looking for others.
Needless to say, this could severely disadvantage those who are used to only going to Food Station C, (or whatever it was, I forget)…
Take as an example the question: if the ability to remember is such a good thing, why hasn’t evolution given us photographic memories? The answer according to Boyer and Walsh’s model is because we’d starve when the local supermarket went out of business.
I once heard it takes 30 days to form a habit. A good habit that is. I’m sure I could make a habit out of eating pizzas for tea everyday very quickly but that may not be in my best interests, whereas getting into the habit of running a couple of kilometres each day might be.
It seems though the more demanding whatever habit you are trying to get yourself accustomed to, the longer it takes… something like running might in fact take more than 30 days before it comes a second nature activity.
Although the average was 66 days, there was marked variation in how long habits took to form, anywhere from 18 days up to 254 days in the habits examined in this study. As you’d imagine, drinking a daily glass of water became automatic very quickly but doing 50 sit-ups before breakfast required more dedication.