Is there a habit you want to transform? Know that you can do it and that it will take you approximately three weeks to achieve it, this article is about the 20 Day Mental Wellness Challenge, the coach method to change lives.
Maxwell Maltz (1889-1975), a renowned plastic surgeon at Columbia University in the 1950s, began to realize a pattern his patients were following: when he modified some feature of the face, such as the nose, it took them 20 days to get used to the new look. He also noted that the phantom limb syndrome in amputees followed the same 20 day pattern. “These and many other commonly observed phenomena tend to show that it takes a minimum of 20 days for an established mental image to disappear and set a new one,” Maltz wrote in his book Psycho-Cybernetics (The Secret to Improving and Transforming Your Life), a self-knowledge book about human potential, first published in 1960 and which has sold several million copies.
[box type=”info” align=”aligncenter” class=”” width=””]According to Maltz, we act and feel not according to reality, but to the image we have formed of it. Habits, good or bad, are molded in the same way. The image that people have of themselves and the behaviors that they have created are closely related to each other. By changing the image, habits will surely change.
William James, one of the fathers of modern psychology, wrote Habit, an essay that two years later he included in chapter IV of his book Principles of Psychology (1890), a reference work of this science. In it he mentioned that learning new skills can have an effect on the physical structure of the brain, modifying it and establishing new neuronal relations and circuits, which in turn alter its functioning.
The concept of cerebral or neuronal plasticity, which is now key in the study of Neurosciences, was already mentioned at that time. The brain is a malleable organ and each skill learned, language studied or experience lived, reshapes our brain map.
Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London, and her team published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, in 2009, How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world, a study investigating the process of forming a habit in everyday life. To do this, 96 university volunteers were asked to choose a healthy behavior that until then they did not do, to repeat it every day and turn it into habit.
They chose, for example, to eat a piece of fruit at lunch or to run 15 minutes after dinner. The time it took the participants to reach automatism with this new action ranged from 18 to 254 days, and the average was 66 days.
The study highlights that such a wide range is explained by the level of difficulty of each behavior, and although participants were motivated to create a new healthy routine of their own choosing, about half of them did not perform the behavior consistently enough to reach the habit condition.
[box type=”error” align=”” class=”” width=””]If the new habit is linked to an important value for you, it won’t cost you to do it” (Mery Viñas, psychologist and coach).
But why is it so difficult to establish a new habit? “There are many factors that fail,” explains Mery Viñas, psychologist and founder coach of Beecome (Coaching & Training). “What you want to make a habit of, must connect you with something that really motivates you.
They can only be created with those goals and values with which you feel aligned. It’s no use wanting to exercise daily if it’s not connected to something important to you, no matter how much your doctor recommends it. If you don’t like something or are not passionate about it, no matter how many days in a row you do it -as some theories indicate-, you will end up abandoning it because you won’t find sense in it. It’s important to make sense of what you’re doing and to find an answer to ‘why do I do it?’ not ‘why do I do it?
When asked why it is quicker to acquire a bad habit than a beneficial one, Viñas clarifies that harmful ones produce short-term pleasure, and that in many cases we prefer immediacy to the benefit that, in the medium or long term, a healthy one can bring. And he insists that “we must cultivate patience and know with certainty that you are connected to something good for you, that you are connected to your objectives and values. Thanks to values we make decisions, they are the root by which we move and act. When you are going to make a decision, the question you should ask yourself is: Does this action honor any of my values or does it betray them? If the new habit is linked to an important value for you, it won’t cost you anything to do it.
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Meditation helps Neuroscientist
Richard J. Davidson has created a Center for Healthy Minds Research at the University of Wisconsin Waisman Center, and among the studies he conducts has verified that meditation causes significant structural and functional changes in the brain in areas associated with wellness and happiness.
The scientific evidence further states that systematic and regular training can directly improve the functioning of our organism and our brain. After thousands of years of practice in the East and more recently in the West, science has finally seen its benefits.
Returning to the insights and teachings of Maxwell Maltz, today’s coaching and personal development gurus apply their analysis of the pattern followed by their patients to create online programs that invite people to transform their lives in 20 days.
This is the case of Deepak Chopra, doctor, writer and lecturer, considered the guru par excellence of well-being in the United States and pioneer in offering these challenges that he focuses on meditation. Chopra thinks that “the application of consciousness, in any form, through such things as determination, discipline, good intentions and attention, has the power to create change. For Chopra, it is with meditative practice that you gain awareness and control over what the nervous system does when you don’t pay attention.
The famous communicator and actress Oprah Winfrey, one of the most influential women in the U.S., has joined the Chopra proposal, and together they have created Oprah & Deepak, 21-Meditation Experience, a network that connects and inspires more than 3 million people in 194 countries through the challenges that have been delivered consecutively on the Internet: Perfect Health, Miracle Relationships, Desire and Destiny, Finding your Flow, Expanding your Happiness …
“Are you ready to create the life you’ve always dreamed of? Everything you can imagine or desire is available to you, here and now. In this transforming three-week journey, Oprah and Deepak reveal the secrets to attracting all the love, success and happiness you desire. This is the claim of the last 20 day mental wellness challenge: The Energy of Attraction. Each challenge consists of an interactive online program that can be done for free, if it is done at the moment it is launched and always from a device with an Internet connection, or buy it in different formats to reproduce it or download it and keep it indefinitely. Each session lasts approximately 20 minutes, with a theme and a central idea introduced by Oprah. Deepak then intervenes, ending with a guided meditation, all accompanied by inspiring music.
The participants, apart from having the option of filling out a private diary each day with a questionnaire that leads them to reflect on their behavior and the changes they are experiencing, can also write their impressions on the platform and share them with the rest of the people who are carrying out the challenge. An average of 40,000 comments arise in each of the challenges.
[box type=”info” align=”” class=”” width=””]Everything you can imagine or desire is available to you,” says Deepak Chopra, the great U.S. wellness guru.
Given its success among English-speaking Internet users, Deepak has recently teamed up with Cuban CNN Spanish presenter Ismael Cala to offer 21 days of creating abundance. The famous presenter coincided on television with Chopra and told him that his meditations had changed his life. Between the two of them, they decided to launch it in Latin America and Spain.
New Year, New Life
On the other hand, Arianna Huffington, US opinion leader and co-founder of The Huffington Post, has created her own 21-day meditation trip, so far with two challenges: On becoming Fearless and Strength of Peace Trilogy. To overcome fear, Huffington recommends “seeking the center of oneself, the place that is not susceptible despite the ups and downs of life. In his 20-day trips, he invites the participant to find his own center, step by step and day by day.
In the New Year, many people are thinking of quitting smoking, eating healthier or exercising more. To be successful, Mery Viñas says you have to get down to work as soon as possible. “It’s not about doing the new action perfectly, it’s about getting started. Then you’ll get better, but the important thing is not to delay.
If you’ve already made the decision, decide on a date and start. In addition to setting a day to embark on the journey of change, Viñas stresses: “Two fundamental ingredients are needed: discipline and commitment. Creating a habit is like using a muscle you haven’t used in a while. The first day will be very strange and even stiffness will appear. But as you exercise it, the muscle will get stronger.