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How Long Does it Take to Break a Habit or Addiction: Tips & Steps

Updated: Jun 6

Breaking a habit or addiction is no easy feat. Whether it's overeating, smoking, or even worry and anger, we all struggle with unhealthy behaviors. But how long does it really take to break free? In this blog post, we'll explore the answer to that question and provide you with practical tips and steps to accelerate your recovery journey. So, let's dive in and discover the fascinating science behind habits and addictions.

how long to break a habit or addiction?

Ready to break free from your unhealthy habits? Start your journey towards change by reading more about the work of Dr Jud Brewer and download the free worksheet here.

What Makes A Habit Or Addiction?

Our minds are wired for reward-based learning. Positive and negative reinforcement shape our behaviors, even without conscious decisions. Dr. Jud Brewer explains that when we perceive something as rewarding, our brains urge us to repeat the behavior. This mechanism helped our ancestors survive, but today it influences our harmful habits. For example, the pleasure we derive from food or smoking reinforces these behaviors, making them harder to break. Understanding the nature of habits and addictions is crucial for effective recovery.

How Do Habits Work In Our Minds?

Our brains are incredibly efficient at forming habits, which is a blessing and a curse. Bad habits are easily formed if there are no negative consequences and a great reward. When we feel sad or lonely, our brains prompt us to seek comfort in food or smoking, which temporarily alleviates our emotions. This leads to a reward, reinforcing the habit. Over time, these behaviors become automatic responses that feel good to us. However, they can have severe consequences, such as obesity and smoking-related health issues.

Over time, the process of reward-based learning in our brains extends beyond mere survival. We acquire the knowledge that consuming comfort food during distress can improve our mood. We might take up smoking to appear cool or fit in with a specific group, which provides a different form of satisfaction. Nonetheless, each instance of engaging in these behaviors strengthens the associated neural pathways, making it challenging to break free from the habit. This reinforcement mechanism is essentially the "reward" that becomes deeply ingrained in the more primitive regions of our brain. Consider activities like brushing our teeth or riding a bike – these are habitual actions that we can perform automatically. It is highly efficient for us not to have to consciously remember to brush our teeth twice a day or relearn how to ride a bike every time we jump on one. Habits serve as time-saving mechanisms, allowing us to operate more efficiently.

Breaking Habits in Los Angeles: trigger behavior reward

The Timeline of Breaking a Habit or Addiction

Now, let's address the burning question: how long does it take to break a habit or addiction? The answer may surprise you. Research suggests that it takes anywhere between 18 and 254 days to break free from deeply ingrained behaviors. However, focusing solely on the timeline may not be the most effective approach. It's essential to redirect our attention to finding strategies that expedite the recovery process.

Tips to Accelerate Your Recovery Journey

1. Identify triggers:

Recognize the situations or emotions that lead to your habit or addiction. Awareness is the first step towards change.

2. Replace with healthier alternatives:

Find healthier activities or coping mechanisms that provide similar rewards to the habit you're trying to break.

3. Seek support:

Surround yourself with a supportive network of friends, family, or professionals who can provide guidance and encouragement.

4. Set achievable goals:

Break down your journey into manageable steps and celebrate small victories along the way.

5. Practice self-care:

Prioritize self-care activities that promote physical and emotional well-being. This includes exercise, meditation, and engaging in hobbies you enjoy.

6. Stay committed:

Breaking a habit or addiction requires dedication and consistency. Keep reminding yourself of your reasons for wanting to change and maintain a positive mindset.

how long to break a habit or addiction

Breaking a habit or addiction is a challenging but worthwhile endeavor. By understanding the science behind habits and addictions, as well as implementing practical tips and steps, you can accelerate your recovery journey. Remember that the timeline for breaking free varies for each individual, but with perseverance and a structured approach, you can overcome your unhealthy behaviors.

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