How Your Brain Creates Habits


Tom Corley boats - crop

It takes time to create habits because the brain must build the neural infrastructure that makes habits possible. Like building a house, the brain marshals resources to construct a habit.

How long does it take for the brain to create a habit?

The best science, right now on this, is a study conducted by Phillippa Lally at the University College London. According to her research, it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to forge a habit, with the average being 66 days. The more involved the habit, meaning the more skill required to engage in it, the longer it takes for the habit to form.

For example, if you decide to take up a sport like tennis, it will take you many years before turning a forehand, backhand, serve, volley or overhead into a habit, since tennis is a very complicated sport.

For the ordinary, run of the mill Rich Habits, like daily exercise, reading to learn, practiced positivity, etc., expect it to take about 90 days before the habit sticks.

Why 90 days?

It’s all about how the brain creates habits.

Step #1 – New Neural Synapse is Born

During the first 30 days of repeating a behavior, specific neurons form a sort of alliance with each other by communicating with each other repetitively. In this communication, the neurons send regular, repeated chemical signals to each other. This frequency creates what is known as a synapse. A synapse is like a newly paved road inside the brain.

Step #2 – Basal Ganglia Takes Notice

After another 30 days, the basal ganglia, the command and control center for habits, becomes aware of this newly formed synapse and out of curiosity, grows a tendril which it sends directly into the newly formed synapse to find out what’s going on. Using this tendril, the basal ganglia continuously monitors the newly formed synapse in order to determine if this is something that should become a habit. What cements the basal ganglia’s decision to transform this synapse into a habit, is the frequency with which the neurons communicate with each other.

Step #3 – Basal Ganglia Marks Synapse as a Habit

After another 30 days, the basal ganglia will determine that the synapse is communicating frequently enough to warrant transformation into a habit. If it decides to transform the synapse into a habit, the basal ganglia instructs its tendril to grow branches, much like tree branches, into the synapse area, physically connecting those branches to the various neurons that make up the synapse. This effectively connects the basal ganglia to the synapse, transforming the synapse into a habit.

Since the basal ganglia is also connected to the cortex through its numerous tendrils, whatever the cortex sees, the basal ganglia sees. If the basal ganglia sees a familiar cue, like the McDonald’s arches, it will instruct the cortex to engage in the habit it created.

Once your Daily 5 Productivity Tasks are turned into habits, you will engage in them without the need for willpower, discipline, motivation, desire or effort. Once they become habits, they will become automatic, unconscious behaviors.

Be Sociable, Share!
Thomas C. Corley About Thomas C. Corley

Tom Corley is a bestselling author, speaker, and media contributor for Business Insider, CNBC and a few other national media outlets.

His Rich Habits research has been read, viewed or heard by over 50 million people in 25 countries around the world.

Besides being an author, Tom is also a CPA, CFP, holds a master’s degree in taxation and is President of Cerefice and Company, a CPA firm in New Jersey.
Phone Number: 732-382-3800 Ext. 103.
Email Tom
| Download Media Kit

Speak Your Mind