"I have to exercise."
"I get to exercise."
Maybe you have heard this cognitive switch before.
Maybe it even pissed you off. But we know it's true and we all know it on some level.
Much of my job is helping people set up positive wellness habits - it is very simple, and also takes work.
There's so much that is not within our control. But for the things that are, change requires us to navigate some really deep grooves in our brain.
Here are some helpful tips:
1) Change language.
Ditch old 'habits' and create new 'rituals'!
Habits are things that have become actually or nearly involuntary. Rituals come from the word 'rite' which is a solemn and sacred act. This means conscious and intentional.
A ritual is something we engage with, willingly participate in, and something we allow ourselves to attach deep, even sacred meaning.
Just listen to the difference your own mind:
"I have a habit of walking around the block."
"I've made it a ritual to walk daily."
Habits suggest we're not driving the bus.
Rituals put the steering wheel back in our hands, and suggest that we're on the road to some place beautiful.
2) Acknowledge Your Motives!
Take it one step farther by becoming aware of our current habits and how they attach to motivations. Habits are manifestations of our attempt to satisfy motives.
Here's a sample of underlining primal motives:
- cultivate energy
- social approval
- risk mitigation
When we remain unconscious of habits creating supportive rituals can feel nearly impossible.
Awareness of the motivations for our actions is necessary for transforming an unconscious habit to a daily ritual. And sometimes it's best when we think first of our motivations and the rituals already in place to satisfy them.
3) ADD, don't subtract.
Current habits can be primers for the new ritual you want to adopt.
Few people can ditch a habit 'cold turkey' ... and even those that can have found something that honors a deeper motivation or offers a more attractive reward - so the turkey is actually pretty warm ;)
I find that the best way to start walking back what you want to subtract, is by adding something in first.
Why? Because on a deep level we don't invent new motivations - we are always going to want to feel safe, less stressed, well liked, included, fed.
Our current habits are deeply grooved ways we're attempting to satisfy a craving, and on some level they give us the reward we seek. If they didn't we would not have made them habits.
And for that reason when we are working with habits that we feel ready and empowered to change it can be a successful strategy to take the newfound awareness we have of our habits and motivations and use them to our advantage. We can latch on the new healthy rituals to patterns we already have. Eventually we might even replace old patterns them completely.
BONUS: TAKE ACTION!
Grab a piece of paper and a pen. Let's get started.
Perhaps you want to cultivate a better habit of exercise.
Write that at the top of the page. On the next two lines consider things you already do to 1) cultivate energy and 2) relieve stress. Why? because exercise can help you with both. Perhaps in this process you discover you gain energy with a daily trip to Starbucks and relieve stress with an episode (or 4) on Netflix.
Attach your desired ritual onto something that you already do. "Before I watch a show on Netflix, I will do a 20 minute yoga or fitness video." Or "Every time I have the craving for Starbucks, I will take a walk around the block."
It doesn't mean you kick the coffee and the Great British Baking Show to the curb. It just means you become more aware of what you're doing in the first place and using that new consciousness to your strategic advantage to create rituals that fill your day with meaning, mindfulness, and the satisfaction you seek.
A note on support:
For situations in which we don't feel particularly empowered to change, but we want to, it's also important to acknowledge that help is available. Having an accountability partner, coach, or trainer can be incredibly supportive.
In life we know deeply harmful habits also exist. If it feels like a habit has a dangerous hold on your life, it is important to seek professional help and know that help us available. Here's a helpful list of hotlines if you need immediate support: http://www.pleaselive.org/hotlines/
About the author:
Julia Lopez (ERYT500, YACEP, Certified Life Coach, Personal Trainer - NCSF)
Julia is the Founder of Practice Everywhere and co-Founder of Honest Soul Yoga. She leads international retreats, trainings, and is a featured instructor on Amazon Prime.