Some people say 2 weeks. Some people say 30 days. Some people say 6 weeks. Here is what ultimately will be the one factor in replacing old unwanted habits with new more desirable ones: the strength of your intention, the depth of your will to make it happen. Then, the time won’t matter. You will just do it.
The old habits may resurface, it’s normal, it’s called relapse, and it is just another step in your process, a powerful moment to recommit to what you really want. The sunshine of the power of your new intention will ignite your capacity to make your desired changes prevail when you do three things: (1) put your focus one pointedly on what you want, (2) notice any distractions to that intention, and (3) let those distractions pass like clouds on a sunny day.
And here is how you get clear on your intention and the depth of your will: honest self appraisal. There is a catch and the catch is this: your monkey mind can and will try to sabotage your honest self inventory. It will make up stories along the way and want you to believe the stories, even and especially when they only have the smallest kernel of truth.
Here is a perfect example: I know sugar is bad for me. I know I want to be healthy. I know sugar is a powerful drug, and I still consume around 5o grams of sugar a day, that is including the sugars in the fresh fruit I eat. The World Health Organization has recommended closer to 25 grams of sugar a day. (The average adult in the U.S. consumes around 200 grams of sugar a day.) Whenever I “cheat,” whether it is a chocolate brownie, a cinnamon roll or coffee ice cream, I tell myself that “it’s OK,” “I’m getting better,” etc., etc. Even though there is some truth to that, it is certainly not the whole truth. My monkey mind has made up a story, and I am choosing to believe it.
From the perspective of my “witness consciousness,” I can admit my conflicted behavior. “Those who practice watchfulness become more sensitive to their own nature as well as
that of others. They develop a wonderful richness of the spirit and are helpful to their fellow human beings. Witness Consciousness helps us develop a nonjudgmental and a forgiving attitude towards ourselves as well as others and thus can bring more acceptance and harmony in our lives.” https://luthar.com/2010/01/18/what-is-witness-consciousness-by-dr-harsh-k-luthar/
We all are conflicted, that is, we all do things that are contradictory to what we know we “should” do. Where does that conflict come from? Your monkey mind. My monkey mind. Their monkey minds. We all have one. The trick is to get past it [it is a process, not an event], so that the mind can be the wonderful servant it was designed to be, rather than the horrible master it thinks it wants to be. The irony is that once you (1) learn to get past your monkey mind, (2) manage the natural tendencies of your mind to chase here and there after external objects, and (3) discern and act from a mature compassion that says “I really do want to be healthy, so I choose to disregard my compulsion for my next sugar fix,” your mind actually breathes a sigh, a huge sigh of relief, and you relax on all levels: mind, body, heart and soul.
That is a key factor in your Wellbeing. That relaxation will help reduce the stress hormones in your system, helping you to increase your wellness. Learning to get past your monkey mind is not complicated, and it does require commitment. Your first step is to (1) set your intention to learn to get past your monkey mind. Your next step is to (2) follow through. Find someone who has achieved a level of mastery, someone who is walking their talk, someone who can guide you through your process of mastering your own monkey mind.
How do you discern who that will be? Ask the right questions of your prospective teachers, guides, specialists. The right questions for you will have to do with not only your intentions, but also your preferences. Do you prefer someone who is blunt or someone who is subtle? Someone who asks a lot of questions or someone who has a lot of answers? Or some mix of the obvious and the subtle, questions and answers, experience and sensitivity?
Understanding the right relationship between your heart, your mind, your body and your soul will set you on the right path to your own liberation from your old bad habits.
Learning to develop your witness consciousness will be one of your first steps, and a lot easier than you might imagine. Taking a penetrating self inventory will be another of your first steps. Finding the best help for your journey is crucial. You are not supposed to do this alone. I may be an old dog, but I am capable and determined to continue to learn, and to teach new tricks. Whatever your age, go for it, today. Do NOT trust the time!