Habits are a tricky thing. If you follow me on Instagram you know one of my intentions for the month of May was to shed old patterns and expand my horizons. Part of that is breaking myself out of habits that have turned into ruts. A habit can start as a commitment to ourselves to set a positive pattern in our life, but over time, when the habit becomes routine, it can also stunt our ability to grow and learn.
For example, imagine you never go to the gym so you decide that four mornings out of the week you will get up an hour earlier to make it to the gym to work out. Great! You’re getting exercise, you feel great, and you’re getting stronger. This is a great habit to set! But what if six months later you’re still doing the same routine at the gym each day? Are you still challenging yourself in the same way that you were when you first went to the gym? Of course not.
Habits can be a wonderful tool to help us set positive, new patterns in our lives. They can also be a great way to automate things that we should be doing daily but don’t necessarily need to dedicate new thought to (brushing our teeth, taking vitamins, etc.). So before I tell you why you should break your habits, let me tell you why you should form habits to begin with:
- Set yourself up for success: Good habits can help you build the life that you want and move towards your long-term goals. Habits build the foundation towards realizing a larger goal. Each bigger goal (running a half marathon) can be accomplished through setting habits to achieve smaller goals along the way (start jogging 3x a week).
- Healthy habits, healthy life: Getting in more movement or eating healthier isn’t always easy. Habits such as meal prepping, walking on work breaks, or getting to a yoga class each week help to create a healthier life.
- Streamline your life and your mind: Habits for every day activities helps eliminate excess time. If you have the same morning routine for skincare and don’t need to decide what to do each morning, you remove the decision time and free it up for fresh thought. In this way, habits can also lower stress levels because the routine reduces what you need to actively think about and act on.
- Get stuff done: Creating habits and routines makes it easier to check things off our to do list. A more scheduled day means less time for procrastination; each task has a specific time when it is completed each week (i.e. Saturdays are for cleaning and Sunday mornings are for grocery shopping). Blocking out time for tasks ensures they get done and is one less thing to worry about.
Habits are a tool for creating order in a busy life and an amazing way to help establish a healthy lifestyle. However, their strengths are also their weaknesses. By creating routine and removing the active thought around the action, habits can quickly stunt our growth as individuals. Automating action so we don’t have to think about it is great for efficiency, but horrible for being in the present moment. To be present is to be fully aware of each action, thought, and breath. In habits, we are able to move through action without thinking.
Habits establish routine, which can set us up in positive patterns, but once the routine is mastered, can stunt our ability to continue to challenge ourselves. By breaking out of the habit (always jogging for 30 min at the gym) and creating new patterns (trying yoga, spin, and boxing classes throughout the week), we not only challenge ourselves in new ways physically and mentally, but are forced to be more present because there isn’t a set pattern for our brain and our body to follow.
I think habits are best used as a way to start a new, positive design in our lives. But they need to be re-evaluated regularly to make sure that the habit is still serving us. When the habit starts to feel too comfortable or too easy, it is time to shake things up a bit – to either adjust the habit to create more of a challenge, or set a new habit to build upon the established one. For example, if your positive pattern is getting to a yoga class each week, once that becomes an established habit, switch it UP. Try getting to two or three classes. Try different styles of yoga. Try going with a friend. Try yoga outside. You get the idea 😉
Here are two ways I am breaking habits:
- One of my positive patterns is the commitment to my yoga practice, getting to yoga classes or spending time on my mat each week. But I began to realize that my body was getting comfortable in this and that I wasn’t challenging myself in the same way anymore. This month I am working in more cardio, circuits, and trying new yoga classes.
- I eat a plant based diet and love to meal prep to help prepare me for the week. I have a pretty good line up of all my favorite, easy recipes that help me to eat well throughout the week. While meal prepping in one habit I want to keep, I am building on this habit by also choosing one new recipe a week to try, normally on Sunday nights when I have the most time. This both helps to keep the foods I’m eating more interesting but also expands my cooking skills and my arsenal of recipes
What are some habits you have that are positive patterns in your life? What are some ways you could expand upon these habits to keep challenging yourself?