Why 21-Day Challenges?
Is it myth or reality? Can you really overcome a bad habit in just 21 days? In 1960, Maxwell Maltz published a book entitled Psycho-Cybernetics – which analyzed how people reacted to changes performed on their body after plastic surgery. Dr. Maltz was curious as to how long it took people to reach their “new norm” in accepting how their body looked after surgery.
Through observation and self-reflection on his own habits, Dr. Maltz concluded that establishing a new norm (or habit) took at least 21 days. His book, Psycho-Cybernetics, leveraged this conclusion for many of its “prescriptions” to those he tried to help. Since 1960, self-help gurus across the world have propagated the 21-day rule. But if you read Dr. Maltz’ book, you will see that he asserts a minimum of 21-days, not a 21-day end all be all – and voila – you’re cured!
So why does JournalOwl provide journaling challenges that span 21-days? Was Dr. Maltz correct in his observations, or are we fooling ourselves here? Let’s be clear on one thing. Overcoming a bad habit and establishing positive patterns requires momentum. Dr. Maltz and others have witnessed people establish the required momentum within 21-days to keep the “ball rolling” with habit transformation.
From personal experience, when I quit dipping Skoal, the physiological changes associated with nicotine withdrawal subsided within 72 hours (3 Days). Psychologically, it took me another 2.5 weeks to mentally reinforce that I was no longer a “dipper”. At 21-days, I had a baby’s level of confidence as an ex-dipper, but I learned the fundamentals of “staying quit” that I had to apply day-after-day for the last 10 years.
The first 21 days of habit transformation, in our opinion, is the critical time period to lay the foundation for future success. Laying the foundation is accomplished through introspection or looking inward. Today, many people first seek external help to overcome a habit, which can often backfire. If you don’t first deal mentally with the internal aspects of the ‘what’, ‘why’, and ‘how’ of your goal – insecurities will derail your progress down the line. We believe that with journaling, specifically prompted journaling, an individual can start from the ‘inside out’ in their journey to a better self.
How Does Journaling Help with Bad Habits?
The definition of a habit is ‘a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.’ According to Merriam-Webster, a habit is a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition or physiologic exposure that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance. So, in other words, to establish a habit (good or bad), one must engage in it regularly. What the formal definition of a habit does not mention is the reward circuitry in our brains.
Let me explain. For nearly 15 years of my life, I was hopelessly addicted to chewing tobacco. Throughout high school and college, I would easily chew 2 cans of tobacco per day. With nicotine, the reward received is chemical in the form of dopamine. It’s the same pleasure chemical that is released with sugar consumption. Whenever I pinched a ‘dip’ and placed it to my lip, the chards of glass in the tobacco would send the nicotine straight into my blood stream. From there, a chemical chain reaction would take place and my reward was the dopamine release. Ahhhh. Dopamine. All is good.
Of course, it’s much more complicated than what I just described, but the same pattern of trigger and reward hold true with our habits. You’re triggered to “use” (e.g., nicotine, sugar, alcohol) and then you’re “rewarded” in some way or another. The reward is what brings you back over and over. It’s quite simple actually. The difficulty is truly understanding why you’re driven into the endless loop. People with IQs off the chart are driven into this simple loop of addiction. We believe the loop needs be fully understood. And when we refer to the “loop” – its your brain, its your past, its your insecurities and weaknesses.
Breaking a habitual pattern requires serious introspection. JournalOwl’s 21-day challenges are hand crafted by recovered alcoholics, recovered nicotine junkies, and recovered fatties. We don’t give you a pen and pad then say, “have at it!” – you’d be lost. With guided journaling, we help you dive deep into what is making you a weak person. To transform fully, you can’t read someone else’s book on how they did it – you must go within yourself first and foremost. By writing out responses to prompted questioning, you are forced to analyze various elements of your addiction. With each passing day, you build upon the next. As the momentum increases day-by-day, you find yourself understanding WHY you have been caught in an endless loop of addiction. If you abstain from the habit for 21 consecutive days with answering every journal prompt fully, you’re awarded a badge for the path you chose.
Does it End with 21 Days?
Of course not, but making it through 21 days of cessation from any bad habit is reason to celebrate! A badge of achievement is automatically added to your JournalOwl profile in our community. We also have a growing and vibrant community of Owls who are ready and willing to take you under their wing if you want one-on-one coaching or support. Journaling and Community are 100% free and will always be, but if you want personalized coaching from an Owl – you’ll need to subscribe to one of our plans.
JournalOwl is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, medication, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptoms or conditions. JournalOwl is not authorized to make recommendations about medication or serve as a substitute for professional advice. You should never disregard professional psychological or medical advice, or delay in seeking treatment, based on anything you read on JournalOwl’s website or platform.