Dossier: Changing habits

Try, try, try again

People who try to change their habits don’t tend to succeed from the word go. Most need a few attempts. It’s important to stay focused and keep at it, because practice makes perfect.

Almost one in five people need more than six attempts to successfully rid themselves of a bad habit.

Most popular good intentions:

  • Less stress, make more time for friends, family or oneself
  • Do more sport, eat more healthily, lose weight
  • Spend less money
  • Spend less time online

New Year’s resolutions are quickly forgotten. Every other person believes they will stick to their resolutions. In actual fact, a year later just 12% have actually managed to keep at it. That’s fewer than one in ten people.

If you’re looking to change your habits, holidays are a good time to start, because the triggers are not usually in place at this time. In this context, researchers talk of “teachable moments”, which are situations in which we’re more receptive to change. Such occasions also include getting divorced or the birth of a child.

On average, you have to repeat an action for 66 days before it becomes a habit. It takes around 50 days to establish new eating and drinking habits. New sports have to be repeated for around 80 days.

Many men find it easier to change habits when they focus on a specific goal, for example: “I want to lose 5 kg.”

By contrast, women are more successful if they tell friends and family about their resolutions.