I found a friend recommending this technique and i thought it would be interesting so I implemented it on a person i know suffering from chronic pain through sciatica.
The number 21 is believed to be the time it takes to form a new habit. And the habit we would want to form in this specific case is to learn ourselves to distract us from pain, not by completely ignore it, but by accepting that it’s there and doing stuff not related to feeling pain.
This theory is coined and explained by Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon and an author of the GREAT book “The Psycho Cybernetics“. Highly recommended.
He discovered that the patient that performed an operation needed approximately 21 days to get used to their new faces.
The same theory is with patients that get a leg amputated – it’s claimed that the phantom limb pains disappear after approximately 21 days. He said that “it takes approximately 21 days for a mental image to dissolve and be replaced by a new one”. This expression quickly changed by word of mouth to the not as correct wording “It only takes 21 days for a habit to stick”.
But does this saying really work? First, I will go over the steps and then be doing an evaluation of some things we believe we learned from implementing this into my friends daily life for 21 days.
But to give you an initial boost, the greatest thing we learned was that
- “It’s not as hard to start if you have a set deadline, but easier to continue once you’ve started!”
Day1: Get a notebook/planner and write all of these steps down
Writing all of the steps for each consecutive day down is something that I would like to call a “micro-commitment”. Especially if you write it in a planner in which you look at every day.
You could also add them to your smartphone calendar, but I advise you not to get a notification about this since it should not feel like a chore or something you” have to do”.
This is also a great way to prepare you for what the different tasks are – so that nothing will come by surprise.
Day2: Write down designated “me” times.
This is another “treat” added into the list. Without overdoing it, add some events or activities that you really like and place them throughout the 21 days. This will not only work as a reward system but also adds a positive mindset to the 21-day challenge from the start.
Day 3: Make a meal plan
Make a not-so-advanced meal plan. It can be as much as preparing food for the next couple of days! It’s all about getting started with these things.
Day 4: Take an Epsom Salt Bath
Epsom salts have great benefits for both your body and your mind, thanks to the mineral magnesium sulfate. Some of these are releasing toxins from the body, soothing aches and pains, reducing stiffness in muscles and joints, sedating the nervous system and even softening the skin if you use the salts as an exfoliator by rubbing it over your skin.
Just add two handfuls of Epsom salts to the hot water and let it soak for approximately 30 minutes. You can also opt to add a few drops of essential oils as well!
Day 5: Catch up on your favorite TV show
Just a day to binge some of your favorite TV show! As an alternative to this, just structure the times and days you want to watch an episode – maybe once every time before bed?
Day 6: Clean Your Email Inbox (trust me)
Just do this! Add folders, put everything neatly in them and unsubscribe to all of your thousands of email-subscriptions that you only delete anyway.
Day 7: Do The Laundry
Of course, doing the laundry is inevitable. But by putting a specific day to do this, it will not be on your mind for these 21 days!
If this is something already done, do something similar – like cleaning the carpets or your curtains.
Day 8: Make an Up-beat playlist
Make an up-beat playlist and choose a song to listen to every morning! Can I suggest “Don’t Stop me now” by Queen?
Day 9: Write 10 Good things about both People you love and people you dislike
Pick 3 people you love and 3 people you don’t like, place each of them in a column and write 10 GOOD things for all of them, and really be honest and admit to yourself that you can see past someone’s flaws and what you don’t like about them.
Day 10: Donate Clothes that don’t fit you
This is an amazing way to both help yourself and someone in need! These clothes will only lay around anyway, and it’s a great way to clear space in your closet.
Day 11: Play a game you enjoy
We all have that guilty-pleasure game we love. Just play it, no strings attached!
Day 12: Organize your desk and clean out junk
Organize it, try out all the pens and sort them after which one works and which one doesn’t. Clean your computer keyboard and your computer screen!
Day 13: Make a budget to stick to
This one is a bit harder, but it doesn’t necessarily go down to every detail. It can be as simple as not picking the more expensive wine over the cheaper one etc. Write down 5 things you think you are spending too much money on and figure out how you can spend less money on these things while still doing them.
Day 14: Call an old friend/relative
They will be as happy as you, and your relationship might become a close friendship again.
Day 15: Buy something that will make you feel good
Well, a bit contradictory to day 13, but sometimes you just gotta do it! But as mentioned in #4 in my guide to shift your identity – feel blissful now! You should never wait to enjoy yourself, or your achievement. A lot of people live with the misconception of “If I enjoy myself now, I will lose my drive”. I myself ordered a cool looking longboard today! Super hyped about it!
Day 16: Buy a coloring book to help you relax
Well isn’t this one silly? No, it’s not, it’s a great distraction device and it’s so satisfying.
Day 17: Take a social media break
Woah, prepare for this one! No social media for 24 hours.
Day 18: Pick a room and clean it from top to bottom
If this is a task that is hard for you to go through with, do the best you can! Or change it to organizing your computer folders!
Day 19: Make a huge list of people you love
Even people you might not even think you love. Look through your contact list in your phone, you’d be surprised.
Day 20: Take another Epsom Salt bath
Why? Well, because you can! And from the first time you did it, you will most certainly look forward to this day!
Day 21: Evaluate!
Write down everything you learned about yourself, your habits, and your mindset these 21 days. Write it on a nice piece of paper and store it somewhere, or maybe display it where you can be reminded of it!
Summary and Evaluation!
Well, I hope you are psyched about going into this, here is what we learned
What we learned:
- That making 21 days purposeful gives way to further implement and learning that what you can stick to in 21 days can make a drastic difference in your life and your future.
- That the “21 rule” isn’t completely accurate and that something magical just doesn’t happen on day 22. (According to European Journal of Social Psychology who analyzed 96 peoples habits during 12 weeks, they came up with the number 66, but a thing as arbitrary as a habit is hard to put an exact number on in my opinion)
- That it is really fun to purposefully shift your mindset towards a set amount of tasks. And that it’s a great way to see improvement.
- That you probably shouldn’t have your hopes too high and that the 21-day rule is just arbitrary to have something tangible to hold on to.
- That you can increase this list with your own stuff you want to add and make another challenge for yourself!
- It’s not as hard to start if you have a set deadline, but easier to continue once you’ve started!
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