Forming Habits to Change the World

forming habits
Global poverty is an issue that takes a long time to change. By making it a habit to fight poverty everywhere, people can create the change necessary to make a difference. But for many people, forming habits is a difficult process.

One way to create a new habit is by breaking an old one. Most bad habits arise from stress or boredom. By actively choosing to do something productive rather than detrimental, people can relieve those emotions in a positive way. This could be choosing to research a nonprofit instead of watching television, or donating the money you would have used to get another cup of coffee.

To commit to these change, people can eliminate triggers. Unplugging the television and setting a nonprofit’s website as the homepage on a browser are good ways to readjust cues. Working with others to make changes is also a good way to keep up the effort.

There is a commonly held belief that it takes 21 days to form a habit. This is a misconception popularized by a plastic surgeon who noticed it took his patients a minimum of 21 days to adjust to their new features.

The European Journal of Social Psychology discusses a study by Dr. Phillippa Lally on how long it takes for a habit to form. Researchers studied 96 people over the course of 12 weeks. People chose habits like drinking a glass of water each day or jogging 15 minutes before dinner. They were asked daily how automatic the behavior was.

The results showed that it takes an average of 66 days, but between roughly 18 and 254 days, to make a behavior feel automatic. Before that, it takes more effort and commitment to keep a behavior going. The study also found that missing one day did not affect much.

This means that people recognize the difficulty in making a change for the better, and they can realize there is no magic time period for change. It is a process and failure is not the end.

According to Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit,” people form “habit loops” to stick to new habits. This process starts with developing a response to a certain trigger, then performing that response and finally feeling a reward for completing the action.

Doing something productive for the world’s poor can provide that sense of accomplishment. Making a habit of donating time or money is possible with dedication. Creating these habits can help the world’s poor and lead to a better world, as well as possibly break bad habits. Making these positive behaviors more automatic will have a great impact on the global community.

-Monica Roth

Sources: Huffington Post 1, Huffington Post 2, Forbes, PsyBlog, New York Times, NPR
Photo: Examined Existence