Updated: Jul 7
Throughout our lives, we accumulate habits – ways of doing things, ways of thinking, ways of coping and managing challenges in life. Let’s start by acknowledging that habits are a beautiful thing! They are incredibly supportive and can help make sense of an often disordered and ever-changing life on planet Earth. They also help us make ‘shortcuts’ so that we can focus our minds on other tasks at hand, letting the ingrained habit lead us through whatever we’re experiencing (like driving home, remembering to take important medications, or the feelings of love and tenderness with our close friends and family). These are ways we can live more easily, ‘knowing’ what to expect and allowing the body and mind to relax, release control and generate confidence in who we are without needing to work so hard.
Such supportive habits propel us through life. They help us accomplish things and achieve goals. When we think about how an action or thought comes to be a habit, there’s a lot that’s part of that process. We may start with a thought of ‘I need to be early to meetings,’ perhaps from an early age, because we learned that arriving ahead of time gives space to be prepared, settle, demonstrate that we’re willing and engaged. Once that thought took root, and the first time you showed up early for something, you embodied that thought and began to etch into your energy fields and ‘muscle memory’ of the body and mind, arriving to the statement ‘I am an early person.’ All the experiences you’ve had of arriving early, ever since that first thought, have continued to reinforce your belief that being early is important, and thus comes to help you define who you are.
Nearly all the habits we develop happen in the same way, beginning with a thought, then an action, and then a reinforcement of the belief which comes from fulfilling the thought pattern. When we start to look at habits we want to shift or change, such as eating more healthily, changing how we relate with the world, reducing alcohol or sugar, or starting new meditation practices, it’s not always about mind over matter. Think back to some of the supportive habits you’ve developed over your lifetime. Where did they originate, and why do you continue to follow them?
When shifting a habit or starting a new routine, finding the base thought, the motivator, is essential. There is a difference between ‘I need to do this because my doctor said so,’ and ‘eating more healthily makes me feel alive and vibrant.’ The intention and the thought eventually become the belief, so aligning with the desired new habit starts with identifying your desired outcome. In this example of eating more healthily, which aligns better – satisfying doctor’s orders or wanting to feel more vitality in your life? Forming new habits is about connecting to the benefits and rewards of adopting the new habit. From there, you can start to build actions which support your new habit.
It's also important to look out for unintentionally (or intentionally) sabotaging thoughts which will derail successfully implementing any new habit. This often shows up as resistance, such as ‘I can never be a healthy eater because I don’t like those foods,’ or ‘eating healthy means giving up the things I enjoy, such as ice cream or cake or wine.’ To shift your energy to support a new habit, which then feeds your actions and behaviors, you must identify with what you believe about this new way of being or living. If you perpetuate negative thinking, then you’ll never adopt the belief of what could be possible. Changing that narrative might look like ‘I’m curious to try new foods which healthily nourish my body,’ or ‘I will eat healthy 90% of the time and allow some space for the things I enjoy.’ By creating these affirming statements, you find the truth of what you desire in adopting more supportive habits.
Just like the above example of ‘I’m an early person,’ your mindset about this new way of living or being starts with believing in your capacity to achieve the desired habit or pattern. In doing so, you activate the energies which keep you connected to your beliefs, fueling you to take action towards your desired goal each and every day. The actions don’t need to be BIG; they can be small things which reinforce and perpetuate the belief you are building, but they need to be purposeful, intentional and derived from love for the eventual statement of ‘I am a healthy person’ (or whichever statement you are wanting to make true about yourself). Through this repetition and reinforcement of what you desire, you are training the mind and body to act WITH you to achieve the goal, instead of against you.
By Jen Rizza, Founder of Newtown Wellness Collective, Reiki Master, RYT yoga teacher and internationally certified wellness guide and coach.