Last week I wrote about my intention to take my meditation practice to the next level and make it a daily practice. I have now successfully finished my second week of daily meditation and I’ve noticed something. Even though I planned to wait to work on being more consistent about exercise so I could dedicate myself to developing one habit at a time, I ended up going to the gym twice this week anyway. I just felt like doing it.
In last week’s post, I mentioned research that showed that self-control was like a muscle that can get tired and needs rest. However, according to research by Megan Oaten and Ken Cheng, participants who exercised self-discipline on a regular basis in regards to one habit, also showed improved willpower with other habits. So self-control also resembles a muscle in that it strengthens with exercise.
There is another way that I had more practice this week. I was more distractible a few mornings this week, so I had much more practice bringing my attention back to my meditation over and over again, which gave me a lot more practice in self-discipline.
Even though I successfully exercised twice this week, I am still not committing to exercising regularly yet. I am going to continue my plan to work on one habit at a time to maximize my success. This raises the question, how long do I need to continue my daily meditation practice before it becomes an automatic habit?
According to success coach and best-selling author Jack Canfield, it takes 30 days for a new neural pathway to be established. He recommends 30 day experiments to try out new behaviors, and an additional 2-3 months to reinforce them. According to Loretta Breuning, PhD of MeetYourHappyChemicals.com, our brains need 45 days of repetition for a new habit to start feeling normal. And according to a University College London study, it takes an average of 66 days for a new behavior to become an automatic habit, depending on the complexity of the behavior, among other factors. Given the above, I decided to give myself two months to develop my meditation habit before I move on to focusing on other goals.
Since the literature does not yet have a consensus about how long it takes to establish a new positive habit, I am curious to know what your experience has been. How long has it taken you to develop a new habit? Has it taken different lengths of time for different types of habits?