Habits are hard to break, but habits are also hard to create. It can be frustrating to feel like bad habits stick with us while good habits are elusive. However, step one is to be nice to yourself. Think about how much judgment we place on ourselves when we “mess up” vs. how much credit we give ourselves when we do well and succeed? (We need to talk about that on another day!) For today, let’s chat about four tips to keep building healthy habits.
Tip One: Be realistic.
Too often we start out the gate too intensely. We go from never eating salad to eating salad at every meal or from never running to running six days a week. We don’t want to burn out. If this is a new habit we are trying to form or a habit we are trying to restart, be realistic. We want to build a habit but do so realistically.
Additionally, if things have changed — it’s a new season in the year or in life, feel free to reassess and determine what is realistic now. A job change might change your schedule or location so that you have to reassess. That’s ok. Take a step back and realign.
With yoga, I am asked a lot how often someone should practice. What they mean by practice is something we also address (see that blog post for more about what counts as practice), but usually they mean a full yoga class. I always recommend that you start with once a week. That is a great goal and is harder than you think as you start to make something new a priority.
Tip Two: Grow/Build with success.
Once you start to have success with the realistic goal, you will feel successful and motivated. We want to build from that and grow the habit rather than go out too strong and have it fizzle out.
Just as we started realistically, grow the same way. You might feel great running once a week, but if you jump from once to five times a week you might not feel the same way. Especially with physical goals, the body needs time to grow this habit and adjust to it as well. Growing steadily but slowly will help it come along with you feeling great.
Add a second yoga class or begin adding an at-home practice one morning or evening a week. Once you have set an activity as a priority it becomes easier to make it a larger priority when you feel and see the benefits.
Tip Three: Motivate with a small promise.
There will always be days when you won’t want to do it. Whatever the reason — busy, tired, desire to do something else, etc. Sometimes we need a break, and missing one class or run or practice isn’t the end of the world. We are realistic, remember, not perfect.
But sometimes we are just dragging our feet. To tell the difference between true fatigue and maybe a case of the lazies, I like the small promise to myself approach. When I used to run regularly, I was frequently unmotivated. I would promise myself that i only had to do five minutes or just one mile. Then, I could quit if I was still just not feeling it and tired.
Occasionally, that five minutes or that one mile was all I did. I was just tired or sore or whatever. However most times, once I was dressed and out the door and doing the run I realized I was fine. I was just dragging my feet, looking for an excuse to skip.
Make yourself a small promise, and keep it. If you really are tired and done after 5 minutes or the first ____, etc., then allow yourself to rest.
Tip Four: Restart as needed.
We all fall off the track. We all let things drop. Cut yourself some slack. Then, if the habit is something you still want to cultivate, get back at it. You can restart any time.
You may have lost some momentum or some speed or strength or endurance or ____ . BUT it usually comes back faster once it has been developed, and even if it doesn’t — the habit is the goal. We want to cultivate this activity so that is always part of our lives, that it is something we maintain and benefit from over the long haul. Keep that in mind and just pick it back up.
If you have kids you know how long it can take for something to become a habit. Think how long we have to keep reminding them that they brush their teeth EVERY morning and EVERY night??!! (I hope it’s not just my kids.) We need our own nudges and reminders to do what we need to do.
You can do it.
Enjoy my Facebook Live video about these tips, and join in every Monday night at 8:30 pm Central.
Also — looking to build the habit of practicing yoga at home or adding a home practice? Join my FREE 5-Day Email Challenge to Creating Your In-Home Yoga Space. Click here or click the picture below.