Creating a sense of perspective is important if we want to live a genuinely happy, healthy, balanced life, focused on true spiritual, mental and physical health. If something isn’t right and it needs to change, then change it, even if you must start with tiny little changes. It’s not about striving for perfection, a concept which is totally elusive, subjective, and unattainable anyway (and believe me, I was a perfectionist). It is about finding a balance that suits you at any given time in your life. Most days I love yoga, green smoothies and meditation, but other days I love an Indian takeaway and watch films on Netflix for hours. It’s about balance, listening to your body and simply being human. I know why self-care is vital, what tools suit me and when I need them to nourish my mental, spiritual and physical health, but sometimes it’s the small steps that need to be taken to lead to the bigger changes. It is about bringing balance into all things.
So, having said that, what habits do you want to change? What habits are needed to make our intentions a reality? How do we start to slowly build our way up and form new habits? What do we do if we fall off the waggon? By ensuring we focus on the right habits, and build them up slowly, we can stay on the right track to achieving whatever it is we want to achieve.
What habits do you really want to focus on?
Before you start putting a whole load of new habits in place, in the hope that you will achieve your intentions, spend some time really thinking about which habits are going to help you move forward. Are these habits achievable and realistic?
To do this, think about your intentions and write down at least ten habits that you think you need in your life to be able to achieve these intentions. Perhaps you wanted to bring more balance into your life, so a daily meditation practise could be one of your new habits. Maybe you think drinking two litres of water a day or moving your body every day for at least fifteen minutes would help you achieve better health. Maybe reading ten pages of a book or eating thirty different plant-based foods every week are more the sort of habits that excite you. Whatever they are, scribble down at least ten.
Once you have ten habits, go back and pick what you think is the most important habit off the list that will make the biggest difference to your life. Which one gets you excited? Picking the right habits will make you far more likely to stick to them. Often, we give up on habits that are too difficult, that we don’t enjoy, or when we try to change too many things at once. Whatever you pick, make sure that they are habits that light you up, and that they are realistic for you.
Now, go back through this list and pick four more in order of priority. You should end up with five habits that you believe will help you achieve your intentions. Make sure these are habits that enliven you and that you feel will make the biggest difference to your life and well being.
Small steps lead to big steps
When we start something new, it’s easy to think that we will wake up the next morning and be a completely different person. We tell ourselves that tomorrow we will drink more water, exercise everyday, eat well, meditate, get eight hours of sleep, have a hobby, cook fresh food, eat our ten a day, spend time with our family and friends and so on. However, we can often put too much on our plates and begin to get overwhelmed with all these changes in our life.
Building up to a life centred around well-being is a slow and steady evolution rather than an overnight shift. Adding small little changes to your routine that make your life better, that enhance your life and how you feel every day is a more realistic approach rather than chasing an elusive concept of perfection that just creates stress in your life. A good start is to look at the stuff you’re adding in, instead of what you’re taking out, go for the positive not the negative.
The pressure to do it all is often what makes the world of Wellness feel inaccessible, as though the space is not designed for anyone trying to look after themselves while working, raising a family and living a busy life, but I don’t think that has to be the case. It’s just about identifying what’s important to you and what’s not, and then finding easy ways to make the practises part of your day. I often find it is easiest to start small and focus on one change to time, so that I can find a way to make it an enjoyable, exciting part of my life.
Often starting by overhauling your diet is the easiest for most people, as what we buy, the recipes we use, and what we normally eat sit more within our control. Getting into habits like meditation or yoga can feel more intimidating and further removed from our day to day than pan frying some broccoli or making a bowl of porridge. I found this to be the case, I thought meditation was all about sitting cross legged for an hour in silence and this often feels close to impossible when life is super busy or when I’m in a difficult headspace. However, I have learnt that meditation can be something very different and it’s a tool that I now love and use to keep my mind in a healthy place. It helps keep my stress levels under control and this can often be done by a simple ten-minute session before I get up and have my first coffee.
Once you feel that you have some control with one aspect of your life, you could move on to another. For me, it’s taken much longer to recover emotionally then physically, since stress for me is a big part of how I was functioning. The sense of not being as good as everyone around me, the fear of being seen as boring for being the first to go to bed, or the sense that nobody would like me if I ate a little differently or didn’t drink, lowered my sense of self worth and felt like it really needed fixing. For me it was no good managing the physical symptoms in my life such as my weight if my mental health was going to hold me back, I had to find a way to take control of my thought patterns and that was the point at which I really started to understand that being healthy and happy was much more then broccoli and kale.
So, with your newly chosen habits, pick just the top one from your list to focus on this week and next week. You can then add a second habit, but only if you’re ready. Every two weeks, or whenever you are ready, add another habit from your chosen list. It may take you four weeks, eight weeks or even longer to add another habit, but it really doesn’t matter.
The key is to start slow and focus on one habit at a time, building on these as you go. Only when you feel as though you have a previous habit down should you then move on to the next. If that takes you longer then that is more than ok! Don’t feel pressured to add a new habit to your daily routine until you are fully ready.
What to do if you fall off the waggon
I am going to be totally honest with you here, we all fall off the waggon. There are going to be days when things don’t go to plan, and you can’t make time for that particular habit today. The key to success is not about never missing a day but comes when you have the right tools in place to get back on the waggon, without letting a fear of failure takeover.
If you instantly think, ‘great I’ve missed one day of exercise there’s no point in carrying on’, then you’ve undone all your hard work for one tiny blip.
When the initial motivation wears off, it can be very difficult to stay consistent and keep your enthusiasm high. Don’t beat yourself up for missing one or two days if life gets in the way, just get straight back on the waggon if you can. Blips happen, consistency is the key.
In the book Atomic Habits, James Clear has a great analogy about ice cubes.You have a room with an ice cube in it and melting the ice cube is your goal. Every day you stick to your habit is like going into the room and turning up the temperature by one degree. The number of degrees that are needed to turn the ice cube into water differs from person to person and intention to intention. If you fall off the waggon, it’s like you missed walking into the room that day and turning up the temperature. If you walk in the day after and turn up the temperature again, the ice cube will continue to melt, it may just take a little longer. This is the same with your intention, it may just take a little longer for the habit to stick, blips happen.
Positive habit affirmations
Here are some positive habit affirmations to get you started:
Every day I am developing new and positive habits.
I know that creating new healthy habits is the fastest and surest path to changing my life for the better.
I always do what is best for me, my body, my spirit and my mind.
All my habits support me in positive ways.
I release all doubts and insecurities about myself.
I am getting 1% closer to my goals everyday with my new positive habits.
I let go of my fear of failure and focus only on the life I am creating for myself going forward.
I gratefully let go of old, limiting behaviours.
My new habits make me feel empowered and strong.
I picked these new habits to give myself the best life and I honour myself with these habits.
If one of your new habits is to do a little bit of yoga every morning, but you need to dig out the mat, your clothes, and find a video before you even get started, then guess what’s going to happen? You’re going to fall at the first hurdle! If you want to stick to good habits, then you’ll need to be a little bit better at forward thinking and removing any obstacles that may stand in your way. So, the night before, make sure you have laid out your mat, you have picked a yoga routine you want to follow, and you have all your yoga clothes ready. Then, when you wake up, all the obstacles are cleared, and you can get going.
Will power is hard! If one of your habits is to stop snacking on junk food, then you are going to want to get rid of any temptations in the house. That includes those tempting yummy snacks, you know the ones in that drawer. Put out a bowl of healthy snacks and even give away all your unhealthy ones. When you go into the kitchen, the first thing you see are the healthy snacks which will make it easier for you to stick to this habit as opposed to rushing to the shop for more chocolate.