Have you ever heard the theory that it takes 21 days to form a new habit?
There’s evidence to support the theory that you can form a new habit by doing it consistently for 21 days, but let’s be honest, there’s just as much evidence that it takes longer. Some studies suggest it takes 66 days, while others suggest eight months is the magic number.
However, try not to get too focused on studying or reporting (yawn). Everyone is different and their habits are different.
What I want to talk about today is something that me and my friend Jen (from the blog She Gets Around) are working on. Set yourself a small challenge to see if you can set yourself a new “happiness habit.” Every month, she tries out a new happiness habit for 21 days to see which habits really make us happy and which ones stick.
Jen wants to focus primarily on happiness, but for me it’s not just happiness but mental clarity.
I don’t know about you, but I’m always reading about things you “should” do to be more productive or feel happy and healthy. You should sleep 8 hours every night, eat a vegan diet to feel healthier, have a creative hobby, exercise daily, spend more time outdoors, reduce your caffeine and alcohol intake, and drink more water. You should drink more and eat more vegetables. Take a weekly digital detox and spend more time on self-care…yadda yadda yadda…the list goes on. And I admit that I’m interested in many of these things…just not all at the same time, so I don’t know what to focus on first. What really makes a difference and makes me feel happier, healthier, more focused, and more productive?
The first 21 day challenge is Morning Pages.
I’ve been hearing about the wonders of Morning Pages for years, and I’ve wanted to try them (and continue to do so) for almost as long. Morning pages are basically writing in your diary every morning. The goal is to write down whatever comes to mind in three pages of unfiltered thoughts. This is stream of consciousness writing, which is thought to unleash creativity, calm your mood, improve focus, and clear your mind.
The idea of morning pages was introduced by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way. It was originally intended to unleash the creativity of writers and artists, but in recent years it has also been adopted in the business field as more and more people realize its powerful potential. I think there’s always a misconception that only writers and artists are creative in what they do, but most professions have an element of creativity. Whether it’s landscape design, cooking, farming, or architecture, it’s creativity and positive thinking that make people great at what they do!
Prime Minister Cameron says there is no right or wrong way to do morning pages, but they need to be done in the morning and should cover three pages.
Anyway, I’m going to do this for 21 days and see if it becomes a habit. I’ve been doing this for a few days now and so far it’s been working great.
To be honest, journaling is something I’ve always done, so I’m starting with something that’s pretty easy for me. I’ve gone through phases of on and off journaling so I’m hoping it gets back into the habit and I can keep it going. I usually start a new diary during difficult times or when I feel the need to put my thoughts down on paper and clear my head. I plan to keep journaling for a few weeks, but after that difficult period, I get bored and the habit passes.
The only time I kept a consistent journal was when I was traveling with Sam. We backpacked through Southeast Asia and Australia for about two years. Almost every night I read my diary and wrote about what happened each day.
My favorite memory from my trip is that foggy night when I sat down for half an hour with a cold beer and wrote about my day. Some nights are spent in a hammock, some on the beach, some on a train or a plane, some sitting outside in a camper, and some in the bottom of a crowded hostel room. I spent the time sitting on the bed. It helped me find the highlight of the day, I appreciated it again as I wrote it down, and the act of writing helped me cement it in my brain so I could eventually remember it too.
Sadly, I lost one of my diaries from that time, and I have no record of my travels to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos.
Morning pages are a little different from travel diaries. It’s more like, “I went here, I did this…” because I’m writing whatever is on my mind.
It’s been a few days since I started and I’m really enjoying it. As you can probably tell, this helps with creative blocks and allows the words to flow a little easier. It’s been a while since I gave myself space in my head to think about things properly, acknowledge it, and process it. It’s so easy to get so wrapped up in mundane daily tasks that we push those thoughts aside and don’t take the time to put important thoughts in our heads. Forget about what you’re making for dinner or the chores you need to do. What’s next on your to-do list, what prep you need to do for a meeting, how you’re going to approach homeschooling this week, and more. For just 20 minutes, let it all out and bring those nagging thoughts that have been tucked away in the back of your mind to the forefront. And write about it. Don’t think about it. Just write. You’ll be surprised what happens next.
Morning pages aren’t a habit for me yet, but I think they will become one once I figure out my routine and the best time and place to do it.
It took me several mornings to find the perfect time and place to do Morning Pages. I wake up at six in the morning and sit alone in the kitchen with the morning light streaming in through the window, the steam from the tea dancing around the page, casting long shadows on the worktop, the quiet morning glow of his page. I was imagining the experience. There’s silence, except perhaps for Louie’s gentle snores (Louis is my dog!) and the rhythmic sound of the four clocks on the kitchen wall that display different times around the world. I sat there quietly, running my hands over the smooth surface of my new notepad and holding my favorite pen in my hand, helping the words slide from my head onto the page.
After about 30 minutes of uninterrupted writing, I wake up by 6:30 and feel calm and focused. My plans for the day are clear and my mind feels calm.
But realistically, it didn’t work out this way!
There is no way in the world I would wake up at 6am and have absolutely no peace and quiet! But I am determined to keep doing it in the morning
After being woken up multiple times by Alba throughout the night, I stumbled out of bed at 7:30am. I ended up writing in the children’s play area while the kids played. I sat in my little high chair with my notepad in my lap, constantly interrupted by arguments over toys, half-averted from Alba, who liked to be in the middle of her brother’s fights. I had to.
Anyway, these morning pages clearly unlocked some words! That’s all for today and I’ll let you know what happens next week!