In my office, I have a painting (idea stolen from Pinterest) that says, “We do hard things”.
I think it is a gentle reminder to myself and to clients that therapy is not easy. But gosh darn, why do hard things have to be so gosh darn hard?!?!
I have struggled for a long time with sticking to new habits or doing an unpleasant activity. Doesn’t everyone? I make excuses, I reschedule, blah blah blah. Any number of things can come up and they all sound better to me than “meal prepping”, or “going for a run” or “organizing the basement”, or completing my physical therapy exercises.
I decided to enlist the help of my friend Blair who is REALLY good at sticking to new habits, whether it be a workout plan, nutrition habit, or a year of the single life ;). I also added here some tips that I have found helpful in my own journey.
Here is the list of things that Blair and I came up with:
ADOPT IT ENTIRELY: Both Blair and I agreed that when deciding to start on a lifestyle change, it isn’t something you can do haphazardly. You have to really commit. And to commit, you have to make that thing “apart of you”. Ask yourself: why do I want this? What will adopting this new habit mean for me, for my life, for my future? What will be my struggles? Why is this thing worth those struggles? How can I incorporate this thing into who I am as a person? If you don’t connect this new habit with a greater purpose, a greater “why” then yourself, it will be very difficult to keep at it when things get tough.
BUILD IN BREAKS: If you know that you can only stick to new routines for about 14-30 days, then plan a meeting with yourself to ask the above questions again. New commitments are tough and it is only natural for your motivation to ebb and flow. Plan an outing with yourself, your planner or journal, go to a park or a coffee house and reconnect with your greater purpose.
GET AN AWESOME PLANNER: Sometimes people I am around think I am crazy for still using pen and paper for my schedule. I couldn’t live without my paper planner because it’s not just a planner; it’s a sketchbook, its a journal, its a goal setting, and an accountability buddy. My favorite planner of all time is the Passion Planner. Check them out here . Blair also uses the Inner Guide planner, Here they are.
CREATE CUES: If we follow the research of Charles Duhigg, the author of The Habit Cycle, the best way to create new habits is to create “cues”. For example, if you want to start a running routine, put your running shoes somewhere you will trip over them. I am working on a daily yoga routine, and for right now, it’s working because my mat is always in eyesight. When it was in a spare bedroom, guess how much it got used?
DON’T RELY ON FRIENDS: I believe I have made this mistake one too many times. It sounds like a good philosophy, but it really isn’t. Usually, the people you gravitate to tend to have the same problems that you do. This means, you will have tons of supporters in the beginning, but if you’re not careful, if one friend decides to take the day off, it becomes permission for everyone else to do the same. When we rely on friends it’s usually because we are expecting them to hold us accountable when really connecting to a higher purpose, as discussed in the first step, is much more effective.
DON’T THINK: So now you have planned all your good habits for the week in your new planner. You’re next step is to jump the canyon from thought to action. Here’s the best thing that I have found that has worked for me. Don’t think about it! If I just lace up my shoes, next thing I know I am out the door. If I just lay on my yoga mat, next thing I know I am completing my 10th sun salutation. You’re mind always wants to avoid struggle, pain, and obstacles. It’s supposed to work that way! So don’t invite your brain to the party. Just let your physical body take over, because it is probably dying for some attention.
FIND GRACE: Grace is something you have to practice. It’s what you learned as a child when you lost or won a game. You learn to thank your opponent, recognize their hard work, and then try harder next time. Forgiving yourself for mistakes or setbacks is a necessary skill and it is one that takes a long time to strengthen. So, when you fall off the wagon, thank the wagon for it’s support, it’s encouragement, honor it’s place in your journey, and gracefully hop back on. When you fail, it is not you that has failed, it was just a bumpy trail that your wagon wasn’t ready for, and that’s okay. Separate yourself from your setbacks.
I would like to thank Blair for her help on this article. Please check out her Instagram at @BNLove.yoga and her website to follow her health and wellness journey at http://www.fallingintopeace.com.Or just click Follow Blair’s Journey Here!
What tips and techniques have you tried that will help others stick to new lifestyle changes?
Good luck and thanks for reading!