How long does it take to change a habit?
If your guess was 21 days, most people would likely agree with you. It’s a commonly accepted belief, but there’s an absence of peer-reviewed research that backs the claim. Yet, as a key to sustaining good choices that promote our long-term health, it’s important to understand the science of this behavior.
As part of this research pursuit, my team at Brown University set out to look at the specific habit of overeating, both to measure changes in its reward value (how much the action appeals to us) and to determine a realistic timeframe to form new habits. Findings provided evidence that the mindful eating tools within Eat Right Now, our digital therapeutic program that targets emotional eating and weight loss, help effectively facilitate and sustain these positive behavior changes. The results of this study were just published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions and show promise in the program’s unique digital tools, training, and design.
After completing Eat Right Now’s core training modules and utilizing the mindful eating craving tool when cravings occurred, study participants changed the reward value of overeating to nearly zero by engaging with app as few as 10 to 15 times. The reward values reported by participants also were shown to predict their food intake – as reward value dropped, they switched from overeating to eating less. Participants also reported reductions in stress eating and food cravings after eight weeks of using Eat Right Now’s mindfulness training interventions.
Not only does this show the value of mindfulness in driving our habits, but it also shows such digitally enabled tools – packaged in a scientifically validated program – can put our most challenging, behavior-driven health goals well within reach. As we learn more about what mindfulness training and digital therapies like Eat Right Now can unlock, I’m encouraged to see our members and program users break cycles while creating new habits that positively impact all areas of life.