Do you know the encouraging “One – Two – Three – Hop!”? That’s how I help myself out of bed in the morning when getting up is a real pain. I first experienced the power of counting many years ago in an aerobics class at the fitness club. When the trainer announced the 8 beats out loud: 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 – 7 – 8, I felt how that spurred me on and gave me a rhythm. In general, the question of the number of sets and repetitions is a much-discussed topic in the fitness community.
Here, too, it is important to first make a clear and well-founded decision: do I train with 1 set and as many repetitions as possible or, for example, 3 sets with 15 repetitions each. When the decision has been made: just do it! And while we are on the subject of fitness: the so-called activity trackers, i.e. electronic devices that measure the number of steps, for example, also make use of our desire to count – but I don’t want to deal with this, because that is another incentive focused on extrinsic instead of intrinsic motivation.
For me, the advantage of counting is that we actively count ourselves and thus keep our brains busy. That is also the idea behind the well-known “counting sheep” to fall asleep. We can’t think about anything else at the same time. That’s why in meditation and mindfulness courses, counting breaths is taught to start with. I learned: on-off 1; on-off 2; on-off 3; on-off 4; on-off 5 and then again from the beginning. When I reached somewhere around 8, it was clear that my thoughts had led me astray. But no problem at all – Gently I return on-off 1. Here, too, it is paramount to make a clear decision: “I decide to count my breaths exclusively from 1-5 for the next 20 minutes”, and then set the timer and put it into action. Counting not only encourages, but also distracts and calms. A fact on which, for example, the 4-7-8 rule of the physician Andrew Weil is based.
The 5-Second Rule by motivational coach Mel Robbins, published in a book in 2018, is also based on counting. Here in the form of a countdown to get yourself to actually start a task. Instead of considering whether now is the right time and whether later might be better, i.e. thinking rather than acting, she suggests a countdown: 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 and go! The most effective way is to say it out loud, but of course it also works if I only say it to myself inwardly.
Everything has its dark side and this is explicitly not about counting in the sense of a compulsive illness. This is agonising for those affected and needs psychotherapeutic treatment. In the movie “As Good as It Gets” from 1997 with Jack Nickolson, the subject is portrayed in a humorous way, but from my point of view, the underlying tragedy was palpable.
So if you want to put the sunny side of counting to good use: Where else could you use counting up or down today? For example, when you want to put off something that should absolutely be done, such as finishing the report, making an important phone call, taking out the garbage…. One Two Three and go!
Good luck and joy while implementing it.