Habits can work against us or they can work for us. Are your daily habits serving you or are they dictating that you remain like a hamster on a wheel repeating the same behaviours and making no progress towards the type of life you really want?
A good example of this in motion is when we have someone who intellectually knows what they need to change to create healthy habits, make life better or advance towards their goals, but they can’t seem to put their intention into action. We’ve all done this at some stage…we talk about it, what we need to do, how we need to do it, but then find ourselves simply procrastinating and ruminating and creating excuses why it can’t happen just yet. “I’ll start next week, no point starting today as the week is almost over.” Or “Once the kids are older I might be able to direct more time to learn a new hobby or leave my job and start a business.”
You might comment- “Are you talking about ‘life change’ or ‘habits’ because they are not the same thing!” Well, you would be right and you would also be wrong…life change cannot be labelled a ‘habit’ but change will only come from developing new daily habits which support you to grow, be healthier, happier and more positively focused.
So ‘life changes’ and pursuit of your dreams, always begin with smaller steps of developing smarter, self-aware, daily healthy habits which effect your life paradigm and become part of who you are, not simply going through the motions under sufferance. The more you understand the ‘why’ in your habits, the easier they are to stick with, because you are motivated to ensure they become woven into the very fabric of your being, rather than a surface pretense testing your strength of will each and every day to try to uphold.
Change our paradigm and we change our capabilities. Sometimes it is hard to change our patterns, but it seems the greatest challenge is to change our negative mental patterns/modes of thinking, by will alone. So it helps if we start by developing new positive,healthy habits that are more physical in nature, then we can use the leverage they provide physiologically upon our state of mind- influencing our mood, perspective, attitude and most of all…self-confidence. This increases our potential to slowly chip away at old beliefs and develop habits of lasting life change which is different from what we have done in the past.
What physical habits am I talking about here then? Self care mostly- respect of your physical body that takes care of all your living for you, without much effort on your part! Our minds can often get so damn commanding and controlling, that they don’t always respect our bodies and yet as someone who has lost their health would tell you…when you no longer have your health, it make’s life a whole lot greater challenge and tests your ability to even simply persist.
But self care does not have to be a chore or difficult, you just need to create patterns which suit you and your lifestyle and be flexible in the way you approach it- so you can keep them up for the long haul. Too many people go on ‘health kicks’ that are so extreme that they are too difficult to maintain past the first week! We are talking about lasting life habits and routines that you have a strong underlying reason for adopting them- not just to ‘shed a few kilos’ or detox your body before returning to a highly processed diet of junk.
Positive healthy habits can become the new rule with much less pain, if you slowly adopt them and ‘add them in’ rather than abstain cold turkey from all bad habits. After all-what’s the rush if they are going to be for long term living? When you ‘add in’ it is important that whatever new habit you are adopting you stick with even through the difficult resistance phase in the first few weeks. It has been scientifically researched and proven that if you maintain a new habit for 21 days, your resistance will fall away and it will become part of your life, with much less ‘will’ required to maintain it. The process of ‘adding in’ also ensures you can choose to break the development of better life habits into smaller bite size pieces that feel achievable.
I’d like to give you two examples of adopting new healthy habits. One I consider the HARD way and one the EASY way- see if you can tell the difference.
Let’s pretend you decide that you drink too much alcohol and coffee and really need to rehydrate your body more everyday. You tell yourself “I have been doing this for far too long- I HAVE to stop drinking coffee and alcohol – I know it’s no good for me!” Then your internal resistance starts up…winging/whining/procrastinating over cutting them out and already you feel like you are missing out! So you put your decision off indefinitely until that day in the future when you are feeling strong, decisive, committed to change and you say ‘That’s ENOUGH! No more coffee or alcohol for me.’ You manage to go cold turkey for a while- maybe a couple of weeks and you even put up with feeling ordinary as the caffeine leaves your system, causing a headache and lethargy, but gradually your willpower is starting to wane. You tell yourself you have been very well behaved for 2 weeks and you should be allowed to have a treat now. You start rationalising the ‘why’ you could just have a glass of vino tonight and then return to your abstainance tomorrow…one glass becomes two…tomorrow comes, you behave well. The next day arrives and you start thinking you would like just one coffee …before you know it you have convinced yourself that maybe you had it wrong to go from ‘all to nothing’ for 2 long weeks, deciding there is not that much harm in having a coffee or glass of wine every second day- isn’t moderation the key anyway? Before you know it you are back to where you started and nothing’s changed.
The other line of approach could go something like this…
“I am going to make a healthy habit of drinking 2-3 litres of pure water everyday. I will fill up a container with this amount in it every morning and take it with me wherever I go. Whenever I feel like a cup of coffee, I won’t say that I can’t have it, but I will make sure that I drink one large glass of water before I have that cup of coffee, in case I really am just thirsty! I will do the same before having a glass of wine at night.” So this could be the first stage of your new healthy habit. You might do this for a month if necessary to ensure drinking lots of water every day becomes the norm.
The second stage might be to replace one cup of coffee each day with a herb tea instead. You would choose the time of day which you currently have the least desire for that coffee. You might also decide that every second day you are going to replace an evening alcoholic beverage with a walk instead, or perhaps a special drink that you create i.e. a hand made juice/smoothie/iced tea/soda and a squeeze of lime- but you do substitute it with something else and allow yourself to attach to it the same ‘emotions’ that went with having alcohol (i.e. you are having a wind down drink).
The third stage maybe simply making a conscious decision about how much coffee and alcohol you will allow yourself to consume each day/week. It will feel easier to take action on your decision because your body is now not crying out to be hydrated with ‘anything available’ but knows it has some other alternatives that provide you with more variety and alternate enjoyment. If you know that your desire for alcohol had originally been partly fuelled for other reasons such as to relax or de-stress at the end of your day, now is the time to consider other supportive options/techniques to assist you with relaxing also. The more you come to understand ‘why you do what you do’, the easier it is to create better substitutions that make you feel mentally and physically stronger.
Which process sounds easier? Total abstainance and trying to stick it out until it gradually get’s easier with the 21 day rule to help assist your waning will? Or, making the process a journey whereby adding in more options enhances your enjoyment, reinforces your commitment and creates sustained levels of self-approval that don’t go up and down like a rollercoaster!
This is why developing healthier habits to take care of your body has a knock on effect of strengthening your mental/emotional stamina to pursue your most positive, extraordinary life… and who doesn’t want that?