I can talk about all the healthy foods you can eat or the perfect exercise session that will help you lose your mummy wobble and achieve that elusive six-pack. That post will look and read so inspiring, and as you read it you will want to just get up and get going. But you know by past experience that it doesn’t work like that…if only. Such inspiring posts are everywhere. You probably just finished reading one if you are on a health-seeking journey. Then what stops us? I want to start this blog by writing about the most important aspect for any permanent change, and that has three elements – patience, discipline and compassion.
The most important thing about starting a new habit is that it takes time to incorporate it into your daily life. Be patient. Be ready to fail. Don’t count the times you fail, just get up and restart. The number of times you fail has nothing to do with when and how you will succeed. And remember; success doesn’t always look like you imagined it to be before you started. Be open.
The fundamental aspect of incorporating healthy choices into one’s life is that once you familiarise yourself with its principles, you realise it’s everywhere. Opportunities to live a balanced life are ever-present. It is this initial appreciation that is crucial. Mindfulness of your activities is thus key. When you are then presented with an option to do something in a healthy way as opposed to not, choose the former (for example: walking on the street and deciding to pay attention to your breathing as opposed to walking in a mindless manner).
If regular meditative walks become your priority (this should happen almost organically) then try to fulfil this high priority task earlier in the day. The earlier, the better. Do the most important, not the most urgent jobs of the day first. You will be able to tap into your determination with maximum will-power as it has not yet been eroded by all of your daily demands.
But be easy on yourself when you can’t get to the gym or have a salad lunch. This will allow you to come back without dread or judgement. Judgement is our deepest fear and thus, if you judge yourself for not fulfilling your intention, you will dread coming back to your habit. Simply move on to the next day. There will come a time, slowly but surely, when the number of times you succeed will overrun the times your fail. Funnily, by the time a practice truly becomes habit, you will have stopped noticing it. This is indeed the true nature of “habit”. So, don’t obsess over “achieving”; just concentrate on the day-to-day.
Facilitate a few things towards your intention. Don’t make things hard for yourself. If you have a spare room/area then mark it for your exercise, and this sense of physical space will not only allow you to cut time in finding an ideal spot but will also strengthen your resolve to come to the exercise daily. Don’t underestimate the power of physical space over your mental space. When you have the physical space to do something, it is more likely you will do it. But remember, there is no such thing as a perfect space, so don’t get too bogged down with what it looks like and how it sits with the rest of your lifestyle. This idea of an ideal “exercise space” will constantly change as you get more and more involved with your practice. Allow room for this change, otherwise you risk resisting the physical space when you have mentally outgrown it. You are unlikely to know when this will happen and, more importantly, these two aspects may not always neatly align themselves with each other.
Also, don’t tie down your intention to form a good habit with other unnecessary hooks and shackles, such as the length of time or the intensity of the exercise. Appreciate that a sprint to catch the bus is as powerful as a 90 minute session at the gym when it comes to forming a habit. It is showing up that counts. Keep showing up. Be grateful for each and every session that you achieve, and don’t dwell in the success of it, just as you should not dwell in the failure of yesterday’s lack of show.
Over the coming months, I will be here to guide you in the right scientific way to achieve some of your health goals, but I will mostly be here to encourage you to keep going on. This journey lasts longer than we do…we pass these habits to our children by living examples, not by dictation.