How Long Does It Take to Change a Habit?
First of all, let’s answer the question: What is a habit?
A habit is a subconscious chain reaction between the mind, the glandular system and the nervous system. We develop habits at a very young age, and many of those habits are absorbed from the people around us when we are kids because we are such amazing mimics. We continue to create habits during the course of our life, both as coping mechanisms to navigate our life and as unconscious ways of acting that we are doing because everyone else around us is doing them. Some of them serve our optimal health and creativity. Some of them do not.
The bad news is that our habits become ingrained in our brain through the creation of neural pathways that support a particular chain reaction to occur whenever we are triggered by a situation or thought that (without our being conscious of it) kicks off that silent chain reaction of action.
The good news is that we can change our habitual behavior through mindful approaches to moving, breathing, and clearing emotional baggage.
The catch is… we have to commit to a daily practice and keep up with it for at least 40 days in order to create and establish new neural pathways in our brain that override our old habit. I like to think of it as creating a new habit that allows more resiliency and sense of inner support that is replacing a old habit of self-sabotage and (often) sense of victim-hood.
This means that we need to commit to a sense of self-responsibility for creating a new way of be-ing in the world. And that we are also ready to open the door to clean out our emotional closet and mental constructs (beliefs) that may be holding our habitual patterns in place. In other words, we must be ready to commit to change.
So – how long, exactly, do I need to practice a new habit before it “takes hold”?
I find the following guidelines from Kundalini Yoga to be “spot on” from my personal experience.
Practice every day for 40 days straight to break any negative habits that block you from the expansion possible through the kriya or mantra.
Practice every day for 90 days straight to establish a new habit in your conscious and subconscious minds based on the effect of the kriya or mantra. This will change you in a very deep way.
Practice every day for 120 days straight to confirm the new habit of consciousness created by the kriya or mantra. The positive benefits of the kriya get integrated permanently into your psyche.
Practice every day for 1000 days straight in order to master the new habit of consciousness that the kriya or mantra has promised. Then, no matter what the challenge, you can call on this new habit to serve you.
Although these guidelines come from the Kundalini Yoga* tradition as taught by Yogi Bhajan*, they apply to anything we choose to do as a consistent, daily practice in our everyday life.
Because of our brains amazing capacity to literally “rewire” itself we can choose to take action that, when practiced daily for at minimum of 40 days, will break disruptive habits and in 90 days create new, supportive habits!
Take a moment, now, and consider one small thing you would like to do everyday (that will take only 5 or 10 minutes maximum) toward creating more support for yourself.
Okay – do you have it in your mind? Hold this desire and FEEL how wonderful it will be to actually take care of yourself by doing this every single day… REALLY FEEL HOW NURTURED AND SUPPORTED it is to know you are doing this one loving action for your self-care everyday.
I invite you to “take the leap” and commit to the daily practice of doing this everyday starting today. Remember – No Worries – if you forget to do this loving action one day you’ll just start again the net day. No “should haves” are allowed when consciously creating new habits. There are no deadlines as everything will unfold according to Divine timing.
What Loving Action are you Taking for Yourself Today?
*When Yoga Bhajan came to the United States and began to teach Kundalini Yoga in 1969 he shared age-old processes (kriyas) of moving, breathing and chanting that, when practiced regularly, result in neural/chemical/glandular changes in the body. Each different kriya is designed to support certain physiological, energetic, emotional and mental transformations that allow the practitioner to align with his/her inner truth and release old habits that interfere with becoming whole. By doing a 40, 90, 120 or 1000 day special sadhana (daily practice), you can rewire that chain reaction. You can develop new, deeply ingrained habits that serve your highest good.
Learn more about Catherine Siri Sat and her unique integrative classes and private sessions incorporating therapeutic movement, multi-dimensional soul and energy harmonizing, embodied transformational coaching, hands-on bodywork, breath-work and yoga at vibrantjoymovement.com
Catherine Siri Sat Liska
Integrative Somatic Bodywork & Soul Coaching, Energy Wellness, Mindful Movement Education
Vibrant Joy Movement [email protected]
Founding member, Community for Higher Consciousness
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2 thoughts on “How Long Does It Take to Change a Habit?”
Great article Catherine, this is very motivating for me!
Steve- I am so grateful that you are feeling motivated by my blog! Over the many years I have taught yoga I have experienced lots of personal “starts and stops” but when I can stick to something for at least 90 days it is truly transformational- not just in my yoga practice, but also in my daily life. I’ve discovered that the best thing to do if I lose momentum when shifting a habit/behavior is to NOT beat myself up: I take time to reflect and re-evaluate my reasons for doing what I’m doing, notice what I have learned about myself and begin again with new insight. Patience, perserverence and self-compassion are key ingredients. Our physical body needs consistent input to lock in new behaviors and changing a habit can be a great process of learning more about ourselves. Enjoy your journey with shifting whatever habit you choose to change!