The Importance of Habits

I think we are all aware of how important habits can be in maintaining our physical health. We all know that some habits, like smoking, drinking alcohol every day and eating takeaways for every meal, can be detrimental. We also have some physical habits which most of us would not be without like brushing our teeth and taking a shower. Many of us spend a lot of time trying to increase the healthy habits in our life like getting more exercise, eating more fruit and vegetables and getting to bed earlier. I suspect many of us have at least one physical habit we are trying to install in our lives at any point in time.

Habits Create Freedom

This is probably because we realise that habits are important. When we install a good habit, it frees us from the swings and fortunes of that old devil called ‘willpower’ and its illusive little friend, ‘motivation’. When those two are absent, our habits are what we fall back on. When we are ill, tired or stressed, we will fall back into our habits which is why it is important to have as many good ones as possible. The other thing about good habits is that they free you up to think, to create, to problem solve and to tackle all that stuff that pops up in average days in our lives.

Habits Make You Who You Are

Your habits also make you who you are. If you have habits which help you to overcome procrastination, you will become an organised person. If you have habits which get you being active regularly, you will become a fit person. if your habits mean that you eat good, nutritious food, you will be a healthy person. When Aristotle said, ‘We are what we repeatedly do.’ he was utterly correct.

What this Looks Like in Reality

A great example of this has come up for me in the last few days. I developed an awful stomach upset a few days ago which has left me feeling washed out and weak but, I have still meditated every day and the last two days got up, got into my workout gear and did some yoga. Both habits I probably did on a lesser scale, but I still did them. The key to this is that I am not saying I am tough or strong to keep doing these things, it is just that now, these things are who I am! To not do them would be so much stranger than doing them. As I already said, once a habit is established, it becomes part of your hardwiring and is just what you do. You will all have habits you can relate to like this. Ones like brushing your teeth for example. The sort of habit where you just know you would not feel right if you didn’t do it.

I suspect that many of you would love to feel like that about a healthy habit you have been trying to establish for a while but I also imagine that you can’t remember how the habit of brushing your teeth became established because you were very young at the time and began doing it way before conscious thought and internal blocks began in your mind.

How Do We Establish a New Habit

I have recently been reading a lot about habit formation and the most important thing I have learnt is … start ridiculously small.

If you have ever made a commitment to go to the gym several times per week (probably as a New Year’s resolution) and failed, you may have realised that some changes are just too big for our minds to accept. It feels too hard to make such a big change because your mind suspects that you are trying to change your personality overnight and it just will not accept that. We all have a set of beliefs and values particularly about ourselves and if you try to change those too quickly and drastically, your mind kicks back and point-blank refuses. To overcome this, start very, very small. It’s a bit like making a stealth attack on your belief system, sneaking in the back door, under cover of darkness, completely undetected.

How Small is Small?

Let’s continue with the concept of exercise. In order to sneak past the guards protecting your belief system (where the belief that you are a lazy layabout who doesn’t exercise is held!), you could start by just putting on your workout gear and trainers and standing at the place where exercise will start. In his book, ‘Mini Habits’, Steven Guise just commits to one press-up each day but consistently did so much more on each occasion he started small. When you have done that, you will probably notice an urge to do some exercise but still stay small. One sit-up will easily sneak past the guards but if you tell yourself you are going for a 2-mile run now, it might be too much. You can play about with this – setting your very small habit goal each day until that feels utterly comfortable. What you will notice over time, is that you consistently do more that your very small habit but never change the small goal as that will be your fall-back habit when the going gets tough.

Change the Beliefs You Have About Yourself

The key here is to overcome the self-sabotaging blocks you have to exercise; to change who your mind thinks you are. Once you establish your small habit, your mind stops believing that you are that lazy layabout, and the resistance to exercise is reduced. Remember that the key to this initially is not the exercise itself but changing the belief and establishing a new habit.

By starting small, you can begin to change who you think you are and establish a whole set of new habits which can help you thrive and be happy.

Ready to change your habits and be happy and healthy, get in touch with me and let me help. If you’re really ready to be happy and healthier through changing your habits, book your complimentary discovery session here.