Have you ever taken the time to consider your really awesome habits? Most of us don't. We spend a lot of time beating ourselves up over the bad habits and fail to recognize how great we are at so many things and how many amazing habits we have created and stuck with. I am going to get into the whole thing about cutting bad habits in a moment, but first I'm going to take a moment to celebrate some really wonderful habits that I've been focusing my attention on for the last long while.
The Good Habits
We are happy the more present we are. When we can bring ourselves into the present moment with little triggers, we dramatically increase our happiness levels. This can be a chime on your phone, the jingle of a bracelet, the ring of a text message. There are many sounds or things that happen throughout that day that we can use as cues to bring our attention to the present.
How I'm Making It Work: I am dramatically more present in my life than I was 15 years ago, before I began meditating, practicing yoga, and eating in a way that balanced my blood sugar. I would let my worry and anxiety blast me right out of whatever it was I was doing, and ensured that no matter how good life was in that moment, I could rely on having just enough misery to not enjoy my present moments fully, ever. Today, I am proud of the work I have done to make regular present moment awareness a habit in my life. It may not quite be at the 24/7 goal, but it's there. The reminder to come back to the moment when the monkey mind wants to take over is a powerful habit unto itself.
It can be easy to believe that physical fitness requires a whole elaborate resolution, a membership and an expert trainer. But what about just moving our bodies to get circulation going, our breaths to deepen and our lymph pumping? Gentle movement doesn't require training or equipment – just a decision to do it.
How I'm Making It Work: Once upon a time, I believed that if I weren't working out to the point of complete and total fatigue verging on barfing, I wasn't doing enough. It started with one walk, then another. I found that deciding to go for an hour-long walk or to a 90-minute yoga class had far more resistance around it than going for a 30-minute run or 45-minute spin class. Slowly but surely, gentle daily movement has become a habit and I have stuck to it for over a decade. It makes me feel good in body and mind, and helps me do better as my first habit of presence.
After the birth of my son, I found it hard to get back into a fitness routine that I could realistically maintain. That is, until I found Obé. There are very few things I've experienced in my life that I would call life-changing, but this habit that is new in my life absolutely has been. These workouts are on-demand, short, full of variety and are utterly FUN. Most important for me, however, is the mental and emotional shift I am feeling. I feel stronger, and more resilient mentally.
Eating Nutritious Food
Sugar, refined flour, processed dairy, caffeine, alcohol. It can be easy to find a consumptive crutch, but overindulging in foods that are void of nutrition goes beyond just making us feel bad, it contributes to slowly building disease in the body and the mind. It becomes a vicious cycle. How long could you go without sugar, honey or maple syrup? That might be a great place to start!
How I'm Making It Work: Good food is simple-to-achieve great habit. It didn't fully start out effortlessly, but because I had been so sick when I began making the transition to eating better, and because making this transition made me feel so much better so quickly, I hopped on the train and kept riding. At this point, my set-point on my diet is that non-organic, conventional, processed food is not an option. I do not buy it, I don't eat, and I'm not even tempted. The closest we come in our house to bending on this is the very occasional dinner out, but even then we aim for restaurants that partner with local farms and take an active measure to ensure quality ingredients. Again, anything less is not an option and not even of interest.
Need more help with preparing food from scratch? This self-guided, online course might be what you need.
Busy is the mantra of our day. How do we be less busy? We focus on taking less on and recognizing that we will be okay. We will not be missing out, but instead have the time for the things we say yes to, or have more time to say yes to the things we really want to do.
How I'm Making It Work: Saying yes to everything all the time can easily become a habit. Saying yes can often be easier than saying no. I've gotten really good at saying no as a regular habit. I don't decline as way to restrict my experience of life, but as a way to enhance it. If I am not feeling a YES YES YES to something, then I politely offer my regrets and in doing so, have made the habit to prioritize my time for the things that really matter to me – namely being present with my family, getting in gentle exercise, and making good food and having the time it takes to prepare it.
Sleep could maybe come first on this list but you might have turned away. The reality is that if we can make good sleep hygiene a priority, then all of the other habits we're working on maintaining become significantly easier.
How I'm Making It Work: Sleep hasn't always been a priority for me, but since having my son and recognizing that I no longer have the false luxury of "making up sleep" on the weekends, I make getting into bed early a priority – since my wake-up time(s) remain a bit of an unknown adventure.
What Good Habits are You Cultivating Right Now?
I invite you to consider 5 good habits you have going on in your life. You can use the ones I've outlined above as a starting point, or come up with your own.
Make a list of your 5 good habits and how you're making them work. You may think your life is a mess - but when you write it all down you can see you are likely achieving more of your health goals than you thought!
How Do We Break The Bad Habits?
Now we have to talk about the other side of the habit coin. The things that don't serve us or help us live the life we want. The boozy nights. The negative self-talk. The procrastination. The spirit suckers in our lives. The sugar.
We can have the best of intentions but too often, our resistance is low and in the moment, giving in to the habit we want to break seems like the easier option.
Let's just establish that it's not. It's a lot easier to continue on a path towards our wellbeing than to continue trying to heft that chocolate chip cookie size guilt off our shoulders every Sunday night. What if you made a decision to kick that bad habit once and for all? The decision is the first step. What comes next?
Two Keys To Motivating Change
- Want: You need to want to do it. The want has to be your own and no one else's.
- Why: You also need to understand and believe the why. Your why may be unique to you but if, for example, you wanted to break your candy bar habit, understanding the slave labour conditions child farmers endure in harvesting that chocolate, well that can be a powerful why.
If you have your want and your why, and a very clear idea of the habit you want to break, there are simple steps you can take, and commit to, that will help you add a new good habit to your life while ditching a few of the not-so-good ones.
5 STRATEGIES TO STAY ON TRACK WHEN CHANGING A HABIT:
- Decide on a date and stick to it. Around here, I like to say that Today Is The Day. But really, find the day that works for you and commit. It’s going to be hard no matter what, so pushing your date back doesn’t make it easier.
- Change your routine. It will help with triggers. Find a good habit that can replace the bad one. If your goal is to watch less TV, you wouldn't sit in the same place where you watch TV, doing nothing but staring at a blank screen. No, you would find something else to do to fill that time.
- Don’t get mad at yourself for having a major case of the “wants.” It’s fine to want something; you just don’t have to give in. Sometimes a walk around the block, a few deep breaths, a dance break, a glass of water, a phone call with a friend who will cheerlead you – it can change how you are feeling in that given moment and therefore help shift your craving or desire to give in.
- Have a good support system in place. Do you know others working to shift the same habit as you? Can you do it together? Is there a group challenge starting soon that you can take part in that will help guide you through the transition?
- Treat yourself to something nice. You are making a big and positive change and that deserves a reward. An item of clothing, a good dinner, a massage, a bath, maybe even a vacation – reward yourself with something good, for kicking that something not-so-good.
As I've often explained in the context of business, you don't have have 100 steps laid out to achieving your ultimate goal. The same applies to health. Having a few key steps to begin with can help immensely, and then as you complete each step you will come to know what comes next. Before you know it, you will be able to look back and see all of the steps you've taken - even if the road wasn't linear or straight.