Monday morning and you are probably thinking about hitting the gym after a hiatus or to stop drinking for the rest of your life. If you’re being more aggressive and saying that you’re giving up your 7 year habit of smoking, more power to you. But, why do we do this to ourselves on Mondays? In fact, for most of us, entering a fresh work week after the weekend has broken our routine of work, which tend to bring up feelings of resentment and unhappiness. To add to that extra level of mental stress, something that is going to take a lot of effort and work on your end (changing a habit), is likely not the best idea. So breathe, relax and continue reading to see ways of minimizing the difficulty of habit-changing.
There are many unhealthy habits that in the past year and a half I’ve worked on changing. The biggest secret I discovered was working towards small steps and really commending myself with the achievements, big or small. Yoga and the practice of sadhana have helped me make these small changes which have resulted in big behavioral shifts.
In Kundalini yoga, Sadhana, is simply defined as the technique used to discipline oneself. There are various reasons we might want to discipline ourselves. The practice of yoga asana, meditation, chanting mantras and breathing are all methods used in sadhana to help us discipline ourselves from habits we no longer want to hold on to or just simply, change.
Yogi Bhajan, who brought the practice of Kundalini yoga to Los Angeles in 1969 says,
It seems that on a daily basis, when you do sadhana, nothing happens. But you don’t do it out of greed. You do it to conquer your laziness, your ego, your stupidity, with your essence of commitment. That’s all sadhana is. We don’t do it to get anything.
Human beings are creatures of habits and at times follow certain patterns that might not be serving them any longer. For example, one of the longest lasting and most constant habit for me that I can think of immediately is my dependence on coffee every morning. I have made this habit a ritual which actually brings me joy as I spend time preparing and enjoying my coffee. There are great health benefits to a moderated amount of coffee intake and also the opposite with the abuse of it, but I was drinking 5-8 cups a day. What I did as part of my sadhana (daily discipline) was to prioritize having a glass of water and fruit before my first cup of coffee. This was a small step in changing a behavior. What I noticed was a changed habit of the number of cups of coffee I drank throughout the day. I have not given up coffee as I love it too much to and it serves me well, but it’s something I know to a certain level controls me. Not all habits are bad and judgement should not be placed in the ones we carry with us. However, as Ian Newby-Clark writes on Psychology Today
Habits help us through our day. When we are doing something that is habitual, we are not engaged in the task in the same way as when we are doing something that is not habitual.
In fact, healthy habits, incorporated through the practice of sadhana, help us transcend through a spiritual practice towards a pursuit of a goal, whatever that objective might be. Now, different schools of thought have different answers to the question: How long does it take to break a habit? I do not have a clear answer to that either, but the myth of 21 days gets mentioned quite often in the field of psychology. Huffington Post published a great article which in fact argues that:
anywhere from 18 to 254 days is the realistic number of days to build a new habit. It makes sense why the “21 Days” myth would spread. It’s easy to understand. The time frame is short enough to be inspiring, but long enough to be believable. And who wouldn’t like the idea of changing your life in just three weeks?
- Start on a day you feel less motivated to do so, but force yourself to start on that day. Just imagine that you will have many days where you don’t feel like it, these will be the days where you need to force yourself to do it.
- Start with small steps and let go of any expectations and outcomes. You likely know the feeling of the outcome, so concentrate on the present moment of doing.
- Start a regular yoga class, meditation group or practice, or pranayam (breathing) techniques course. These will all help you keep still when you want to deviate. Click here for 12 meditation techniques you can do at the office.
- Keep yourself accountable, but it might help to have a friend or family keeping you on track.
- Don’t blame yourself when you slip. Just get back on track without really attaching yourself to what you consider to be a “failure”.
Next time you think about changing a habit, think about the following questions:
What kind of habits do you want to hold on to that actually serve you? To let go of?
Why do you want to give up that habit?
What action will you take to make that happen?
Please share your responses in the comment box.