Creating this blog and posting regularly, is a new habit I established as part of the Yoga Girl challenge. I decided to use my new routine of posting at least 3 times each week as a catalyst to write some tips and tricks for establishing and keeping new habits.
Across the internet, magazines, and social media we frequently see 21 day challenges. These challenges ask participants to adopt a new routine for 21 days, promising that after that time a fully-fledged habit will be in place. However, where this magic 21 day number came from is completely undocumented and not supported by any scientific research. Allow yourself to release the one size fits all notion that you can form and permanently establish a new habit in 21 days. Or alternatively, choose to hold on to that notion if it is a strong motivating force for you.
I know first-hand that establishing habits is difficult. I am a world class negotiator when it comes to talking myself out of habits and granting exceptions. But each time I allow myself to do this, guess what happens? The habit doesn’t stick. So now when I want to establish a new habit I employ the following tips before beginning.
Listen to your intuition. What is your body, mind, lifestyle begging you to change? When you begin a habit that is aligned with an inner desire to change it is easier to make that habit a practice. Your gut is supporting you. Often when we give our souls what they have been asking for we feel amazing. We find new ways of being, new favorite activities, and interests. For years my soul had longed for a daily meditation practice. Beginning this new habit was always at the top of my resolutions and yet I never did it, even though part of me was longing for this habit. I just wasn’t listening. And honestly, I thought it would be far too difficult an undertaking to begin. But when I finally did commit to beginning my meditation practice (a decision that was brought about entirely because a psychic told me I needed to meditate) it was actually easier than I anticipated because the part of me that had wanted this habit all along was overjoyed with my beginning.
Put Your Pants on One Leg at a Time
If you tried to put on your jeans by inserting both legs at the same time you would topple over in a tangle of legs and fabric. The same is true when you try to begin multiple habits at the same time, you topple over. Start with only one new habit. Creating new habits requires a shift in balance, so allow yourself to make adjustments one habit at a time.
Determine what exactly you want to change. Saying that you are going to make running your new habit lacks specificity, which pretty much guarantees it will also lack staying power. To help determine the specificity of your new habit ask yourself: What will this look like? How will this be accomplished? When will this habit be performed? And most importantly, don’t forget to ask yourself why you want to establish your new habit. Having a clear desired outcome makes you more likely to stick with your habit.
So you have your ONE new habit that you are committed to adding into your daily routine. Let’s say your goal is to eat healthier. First off, I would encourage you to make that more specific. What does that mean? Eating more servings of fruits and veggies? Drinking more water? Cutting out processed foods or added sugars? Ok, so maybe you want to eat more fruits and veggies. Start small. Begin by replacing just one thing. Swap your snack of cheese and crackers for some veggies and hummus. When you’ve implemented this change for a week or so, try adding another small tweak. Could you add some delicious fruit to your breakfast of choice? Or add an extra vegetable serving to your dinner meal? If you keep this progression you will soon be swapping your lunchtime sandwich for a veggie abundant salad or start whipping up green smoothies for your go to breakfast. You’ll also increase the longevity of your habit. You can do one small thing right? Of course you can!
Your new habit will not yet be second nature to you so it helps to formulate a plan. Make grocery lists that will insure you have healthy options for meals and snacks on hand. Take a water bottle to work with you. Lay out your gym clothes the previous night for your morning run. Remove all of the obstacles that would prevent you from following through on your habit.
Listen to your thoughts
What is your internal dialogue saying? Monitor what you allow yourself to think. The annoying roommate in my head likes to tell me all kinds of lies about how I can’t do something. Sometimes it even formulates these elaborate excuses as to why I shouldn’t do something. When you catch yourself thinking these thoughts, acknowledge them and then tell your inner mean girl that the statement is not true. “It is not true that I have no follow-through. I complete many things I set my mind to.” And then give an example. I also like to laugh or smile at my sneaky mean girl when I catch on to the games she’s trying to play.
Tell others about your new habit. You never know who you will inspire and sharing your goal and progress with others makes you accountable. But at the end of the day, you are ultimately only accountable to yourself. This also means that you are the only person that stands in the way of your new habit. Hold yourself accountable. When I start a new habit I often have the desire to skip a day, which leads to usually skipping multiple days, which can lead to the abandonment of the habit. A trick I’ve learned is to not let myself off the hook. But we are human, and we have days where we really don’t want to practice yoga or go to the gym. On those days I remind myself that not practicing is not an option, but that I am willing to adjust that day’s practice. Maybe you really don’t feel like running your two miles, but you could run one and walk the other. The important thing is to not skip days.
I hope some of these tips help you keep your new habits. You are a source of greatness. You can move mountains if you want to, eating some carrots is going to be easy.