Day 21 – Learning New Habits

“Happiness is not something readymade. It comes from your own actions.”

Dalai Lama

Happynesshub Hint Twenty One


If you look over the past 3 weeks, which exercises and activities have really worked for you? What does your gut say? Recap our time together, and really observe what ‘felt’ as if it created change. Decide which elements of the toolkit have worked for you, and incorporate them into your daily life. Ideally, if you can, for at least three months.

The Day 21 Film – Sally

Welcome to our Day 21 Happynesshub Hint Film with our very own Sally here to explain more about today’s exercise and fill you in on the nuts and bolts of how to get the most out of the day.

Welcome to our Day 21 Movement and Meditation Video, which features gentle breathing, stretching and meditation. If you have any health concerns, please consult your GP first. If you have a yoga mat that is helpful, otherwise please do not practise on a slippery surface.

If you would prefer to follow a shorter breathing and / or meditation film (with no stretching) please click here. Or if you want an audio meditation only, choose how long you have, then click and go!

Many people have asked me: why 21 days? My response could well have been: because it takes 21 days to form a new habit (or lose an old one)! Research shows, however, that this is most likely a myth, and that learning new habits takes far longer and is personal to who we are, and how we go about it. The reality is that my package had 21 elements that I wanted to convey, and whether 3 weeks is habit-forming or not, it requires a level of commitment, which I felt could lead to change.

But this did get me thinking about habits, and the door soon opened to the world of neuroplasticity: ‘the brain’s ability to reorganise itself by forming new neural connections throughout life’. What this means is that with proper practice we can ‘trick our neural machinery to cultivate positive states of mind’ says author and psychologist Rick Hanson; that is quite literally rewire our brains to form new connections and weaken old. To me this sounded really exciting, and also hopeful – I could actually train myself to be happier!

Hanson talks about how we can overcome natural negativity bias by being intentional with our thoughts. He calls this “self-directed neuroplasticity,” which means if we control our attention (for example repeatedly focus on what we are grateful for, instead of what we resent) we can literally ‘rewire’ our brain.

We’ve touched upon this throughout the days, but two things keep coming back to me from the research I’ve read: mindfulness and gratitude. If I had to pick my top two these would be they, from my personal experience as well. Meditation, and being mindful (Hint 4), led to massive change for me, but largely when I practised regularly. Gratitude (Hint 1) is and was the other biggy. Hanson talks about ‘taking in the good’. He says in order to use the mind to change the brain we have to really feel the experience for a time, “take steps, consciously, to keep that spotlight of attention on the positive.” Then, when motivation is low, or times are tough, we’ve already made steps to rewire our brain.

So what can you take away from our time together? For me I think there are four key points:

  • Our brains can literally change so, with practice, it’s possible to learn new, healthy habits
  • Learning and doing new things (in particular happiness-increasing activities) help our psychological well-being and emotional resilience
  • Different approaches suit different people
  • Doing a variety of exercises combats stagnation and delivers the best results

So see what you can incorporate into your day-to-day life. Can you manage a daily meditation or your nightly gratitude entry? Maybe occasionally play a happy song when you’re in the car or need cheering up? Or have a couple of hours out from your usual tech? Can you, as you go along, speak more kindly to yourself and focus on the positives? So try to mix them up. See what works for you. My hope is that eventually, these ‘habits’ will become natural, that your daily well-being will improve, and in harder times you will be more resilient.

Enjoy, have fun, and be happy!

Please click here for further research on Learning New Habits.