Do not completely scratch the 21 day period! It's not entirely coincidental: the three week mark is indeed important in habit formation – it only represents the initial stages.
"It takes three weeks for gamma-ray peaks to appear in the brain, which means we can recapture [thoughts]," she explains. Think of these brain waves as smaller tides on the beach – they're important as they allow new connections, but they're fleeting.
So these gamma peaks are an important start, but the brain needs more time. Leaf sums it up like this: "To make [the waves] strong enough to affect behavioral changes, we need another 42 days."
She did the research to back it up as well. She conducted a clinical study on millennial anxiety and tested her brain waves on day one, day 21, day 63, and at points in between. "Some of our [participants] who were clinically depressed had completely flat, blue brains at the start of the study – which means very low, like a flat line in the ocean," explains Leaf. "Once they had mind management, within three weeks the brain had turned gray, which means the waves were flowing properly." By the end of nine weeks? "It was sustainable."
Leaf isn't the only expert who views fear as a habit – it can be pointless, after all, and it can take some awareness to break the pattern. In theory, the same science can be applied to any other bad habit, not just those anxious thoughts swirling through your brain. However, she notes another important – and encouraging – point to remember as you start building your habit: you may not be aware of the effects in the beginning.
"You may not feel the changes in you while doing mind management first," she says. "But research shows that your subconscious mind and body know before you do, so the changes will take place in yours." Brain. "You only have to trust the process for a while – well, nine weeks to be precise.