‘Motivation is what gets you started, Habit is what keeps you going.’
As we enter into the last month of the year, it is time for quiet introspection. What went right this year? What did not work so well for me? What might I have done differently? During one such contemplative session, I realized that it is the habits which really distinguish the productive from the unproductive ones, the go-getters from the procrastinators, the ones who seem to have it all and enjoy it from the ones who are still struggling to find themselves. It is these habits which ensure the sustenance of a healthy lifestyle and overall wellbeing – whether it is sleeping on time or meditating or taking time out for exercise. These habits which you do day in and day out give you the resilience needed to plough through turbulent times – which all of us go through at one point of time or the other.
That being said, breaking out of habits one has fallen into is hardly ever easy. Whether it is the inertia to get in your 150 minutes of exercise per week, or eating healthy every single day, maintaining good habits is hard and requires continuous effort, till they become second nature. Most of us have patterns which we tend to fall into – comfort zones which we would rather not step out of. So then how do we make sure that we create and maintain these healthy habits?
Let us dive a little deeper.
- Awareness of the Habit: The first and foremost step is recognizing which habit loops you fall into every time you seek comfort. Do you reach out for that sugary treat when you are feeling stressed? Is it anxious thoughts of the presentation that you need to give next morning causing you to lose sleep and binge watch that series on Netflix? Are you feeling too depressed to go out for a 30 minute walk, even though you know it will make you feel better at the end of it? What is your Achilles Heel? The first step is just the awareness of your emotions. Not eating, drinking, watching, running, sleeping – just sitting with your emotions.
- Rewards of the Habit: What are your triggers for this bad habit? Is it having a bad day at work? Or the feeling of loneliness even amongst your friends? Or wanting to escape your problems for a little bit? For example, eating a chocolate pastry feels good, heck it feels great in the moment! When that gooey chocolate hits your tongue, the sensation of pleasure is so intense, that you momentarily forget the long term price which you need to pay for it. The weight gain, the hours of exercise that you put in, the lifestyle diseases which come as a part and parcel of devouring the sugar are all forgotten in that moment. But why does that happen? Are there some emotions that you are trying to numb through this binge eating? Isn’t it healthier to confront them? Be mindful the next time you reach out for a smoke – how does it really feel? Do you like the smell and lingering taste in your mouth? Is this the reward which you are looking for?
- Reforming the Rewards: Now that you are mindful of your triggers and the perceived reward of the habit, maybe can you replace the ‘high’ with something more lasting? It is said that you don’t really give up a bad habit. You merely replace it with a good one. Eating that chocolate or having an extra glass of your favorite drink releases dopamine, a ‘feel-good’ hormone which makes you happy in the moment. But you can replace this happy feeling with something healthier like grooving to your favorite music, or getting enough zzzzs tonite or meditating or even running, if that’s is your thing! Whatever gives you the feeling of relaxation and elation could be your go to when your mind is craving for your vice.
So don’t give in to your bad habits this year. Try being more mindful and actually see how they make you feel. And then work on replacing it with another high! Hope to see a happier, healthier and more fulfilled side of you in the coming year!