Life has a way of throwing our routines off balance—be it pressing deadlines, summer vacations, an exciting trip far from home, or unexpected events that demand our full attention. These disruptions are part of life, and they will continue to occur. The key is to equip yourself with tools and techniques that help you return to baseline and reclaim your health and balance in just 21 days.

This 21-day plan is built on six evidence-based habits, aligned with The FlipSide’s Foundations of Health: Time Management, Stress Management, Movement, Nutrition, Brain Health, and Sleep. By practicing each habit and tracking your progress daily, you will notice positive changes in your mental and physical health in weeks. It might seem difficult at first, but these practices do not require you to overhaul your life, spend long hours in the gym, or go on a restrictive diet. On the flip side, it is a sustainable way of building a solid ground for positive changes.

Why 21 Days?

You might have heard that it takes 21 days to build a habit. This concept, introduced in the 1950s by a plastic surgeon, suggested that it took “at least” 21 days for patients to get used to a new appearance. Recent studies confirm that while it can take between two to eight months to solidify a habit, 21 days is a good start for dissolving old patterns in the brain and fostering new ones. Remember, the phrase “at least” is crucial—it’s a starting point. And sometimes, the hardest part, is to get started.

Habit 1: The Top 3

Managing your time effectively is crucial for maintaining good health. Many people struggle with setting boundaries and balancing work and personal life. The Top 3 technique involves identifying the three most important tasks you need to accomplish each day.

Write them down on a notepad the day (or night before) before, and ensure they happen. Come back to this paper in the morning and plan to complete these 3 items before lunchtime. If you commit to completing these tasks in the morning, the risk of them being thrown off-track by unexpected events in the afternoon increases.

These tasks should depend solely on you, not others. Your tasks could range from “doing 10 squats while brewing coffee” to “finishing “section 3” on a report.” By managing your time effectively, you set a foundation for a healthier lifestyle.

Habit 2: Lights out and Breathe.

Sometimes we just forget to breathe deeply, and even though it may sound too simple, having a five-minute intentional breathing moment in your day (or night) may be all you need to start giving your brain and body a cue to release accumulated stress and tension.

When going through busy times, we lose the ability to switch off the “busyness”. When we finally turn off our night light, head on the pillow and the body sinks into the mattress, we are no longer able to distract ourselves with busyness. This is the time when underlying worries and concerns about family and work start popping up in our minds and the stressful thoughts then become a barrier to fall (or stay) asleep.

A great and underutilized practice is to adopt a short breathing practice as soon as you turn off the lights. It’s called box breathing and it goes like this. Eyes closed, focus on your breathing. Inhale slowly for four counts, hold your breath in for four, release slowly counting to four, and hold your breath for four counts. Repeat four times or until you fall asleep.  The key here is to invite sleep with a “de-stressed” nervous system.

Habit 3: Control One Meal a Day

Nutrition is vital, but we’re not talking about diets or restrictions. Focus on eating in a way that gives you energy and allows you to be active and healthy. For the next 21 days, control one meal a day completely. Make it the healthiest meal of your day. If it’s breakfast, create a balanced smoothie with fruits, leafy greens, healthy fats, and protein. If it’s lunch, prepare a nutrient-rich salad, add at least six veggies and a protein. Avoid processed foods and sugary drinks during this meal. Make sure it is a satisfying and filling meal, so it takes you a long way with at least 4-5 hours without snacks. Let your gut benefit from all those nutrients.

Habit 4: 20 Minutes of Movement a Day

Movement is essential for health. Our bodies are designed for activity, not sedentarism. Aim for two sets of 10 minutes of continuous movement each day. Examples include parking further away, dancing, taking your kids or dog for a walk, or walking during phone calls. But make sure your heart pumps during these 2 bouts, and it would be even better if you break a slight sweat.

Make it easy for you and include these 10-minute movement breaks within your day. Regular movement throughout the day keeps your body and mind in optimal condition.

Habit 5: Mindful Eating

Gut health is linked to brain health. Gut dysbiosis, an imbalance of good bacteria in the gut, can lead to various health issues, including cognitive performance, mood disorder and hormonal imbalances. The health of your gut is influenced not only by what you eat but also by how and when you eat.

Mindful eating involves eating without distractions, chewing slowly, and enjoying your meal. This practice helps you recognize when you are full, aids digestion, and reduces gas, bloating, and inflammation. Choose one meal a day to eat mindfully—sit down, put away your phone, give your back to any screen, look out a window, find a friend to share this time with and focus on your food.

Habit 6: Expose Yourself to Natural Light to Improve Sleep

Sleep is crucial for resetting your brain and body. Exposure to natural light, especially in the morning and evening, helps regulate your biological rhythm and promotes a healthy wake-sleep cycle. Spend 10 minutes outside in the morning and try to get some exposure to dusk light in the evening. Maybe you can stack this habit with a 10-minute brisk walk, and you get two for the “time” of one.

This natural light exposure helps regulate melatonin production, the hormone that manages sleep. Avoiding artificial light close to bedtime ensures that melatonin production is not disrupted, promoting better sleep quality.

Ready to Get Started?

These habits are simple and evidence-based, designed to positively impact your health when practiced consistently. Positive habits require intention and practice. Download the tracker and get started. This 21-day plan helps you reset and reclaim your health, providing a structured approach to get back on track.

Good luck and let us know how it goes.


Important Links

21-Day Tracker