It’s that inevitable time of year when advertisements begin telling us to “shape up”. Lose weight! Exercise more! Eat better! Love yourself! There is pressure going into the New Year to set resolutions that most likely will not be seen through – other than those first few days of course, when you’re simply feeling guilty about everything consumed over the holidays. Is there a better, more balanced way to approach our habits, though?
Last year around this time, my husband and I decided to go vegan, sugar-free for the month of January. For two, cheese-loving sweet tooths, this was tough. Did we eat a lot of delicious wholesome meals? For sure. Did it seem a bit extreme when it was all said and done? Also, yes. Me being a plant eater anyway, I was more or less pleased with the results. My energy levels rocketed, but so did my stress levels. Within a few weeks, I had become so focused on what I couldn’t eat, that it took the joy out of cooking and eating in the first place. I’m not saying veganism or sugar-free diets are inherently bad at all, it was just a lesson in moderation I felt I was supposed to learn.
This isn’t about just diet and exercise, either. While these are usually the primary factors in resolution making, what about our more psychological based habits? For example, the way we talk to ourselves, how we treat others and our work lives (read: late nights in the office, or working jobs we hate.).
Instead of knocking yourself down this year for all of the bad habits you might have, we encourage you to spin it around – what are some good habits you would like to instill in your own life that could one day send the bad habit out the window. You know, without having to fight it away like an evil villain. If together we can make an agreement to focus on adding good habits in our lives, this whole “habit” thing automatically becomes more positive, encouraging and not so forced.
Being mindful with our habits simply translates into having the awareness that we intuitively know what’s best for us, then following through with it. While following it is where the hard work comes in, it all starts with the knowing. Mindfulness is a great tool that enables us to be empowered by making our own decisions in a rational, conscious way instead of following the unconscious patterns we have made for ourselves – which lead to the bad habits anyway. By doing this, we can re-wire our brains in such a way that allows us to live better and with more direction. Here are just a few tips on how to incorporate mindfulness when it comes to habit-breaking and habit-making:
Own Your Habits
Take a moment to list a few of your own habits. Accept that the bad habits are there and give yourselves a pat on the back for the good ones. We all have both and given the rat race we live in, it really isn’t easy. Leave the shame in the past.
What are some new, realistic habits you would like to instill? Why are these habits important to you? In order to set long-term goals, it is important to really know your intention behind the habit anyway. “I heard this rare berry is good for you” is not an answer. It should be something that is a priority in line with your own values.
Take Your Time
This means starting small. Say you want to take up daily meditation (plug: which we highly recommend), and you decide to commit to an hour every day. While doing this on a whim might work for some people, for others it’s too intense. Make small goals for yourself and take it a step at a time. Start with ten minutes and add ten more each week. Giving your body and mind time to integrate these changes is key.
Let Go Of Judgment
Really, stop judging yourself and beating yourself up because it leads nowhere and actually makes it more difficult to change in a positive, loving way. When you slip up and feed the bad habit, forgive yourself and move on.
You are not alone. We all need encouragement and community to survive and thrive. Whether this means reaching out to an exercise group and building relationships that help in the process, or simply sharing your “new habit goals” with a friend, most likely whoever you share with will probably be encouraged in return and it may end up being something you do together.
As we go into 2016, we could all use a little more self-love and mindfulness when it comes to our daily lives. Next time that pesky bad habit shows its face, take a deep breath and know you do have the capability to overcome it. Keep reminding yourself of that and see what happens. Let’s break some, make some and vow to enjoy ourselves as we do it!