February UpdateHow are your New Year's resolutions going?
January has passed us by in a blur of chilly days and 5k runs. Most of us will have started the year ready for normality to resume after the Christmas break, but with a few resolutions added in for good measure.
A lot of people use January as a time to set new goals, reestablish good habits and try to break bad ones. But as we reach February, how are your resolutions holding up?
Creating new habits is never easy. But once they're created, they're hard to break so getting through the early stages is well worth the work.
At the start of January GAIN Mobility hosted a Mindfulness Meditation workshop and we discussed getting meditation into a busy schedule and how plausible it would be to keep it up. Here are the top take away tips for creating any new habit.
What's important when starting something new, such as meditation, is to reward yourself. Something becomes a habit when there is a reward at the end of it. The reward being the feeling of calm after meditation, or the endorphin hit after a work out, or the fresh minty feeling you get after cleaning your teeth (yep, cleaning your teeth is a habit).
So look for the reward in the habit you're creating, no matter how small.
The second thing we require when making a new habit is a trigger, something that makes you want to carry out said behaviour. Something such as your alarm clock could be a trigger. If every morning your alarm goes off and the first thing you do is meditate, over time the alarm will become the trigger to meditate. Or perhaps, finishing work is your trigger to go to the gym. Or your first coffee of the morning marks the point at which you're ready to get outside for your run. Each of these things can be a trigger which leads you to carry out your new habit. Find the trigger and work with it to help ingrain your habit.
We also require motivation to continue with our new habit. I'm sure we all know how motivation ebbs and flows and is never quite where it needs to be at the times we need it most. So to help tackle this motivation speed bump, break down as many barriers as you can before starting a new day.
Sunday night motivation might be at an all time high, so now is the time to get the mat out, next to the bed ready for your morning meditation. Or to get all your gym gear out and ready to put straight on so you can go to the gym. Perhaps its having your food ready for the next day so you can maintain your healthy eating. Use your motivation highs to knock down barriers that might occur in the future.
If you're finding the barriers are down but you're still not consistently getting your new habit in, it could be worth looking at your goals. Are they realistic, are you trying to do too much all at once? Thirty minutes of meditation every day might be overkill to start with. Hitting the gym six days a week could be leaving you feeling sore and unlikely to go back. Try to start small and build up. If you make five minutes of meditation each day to begin with, it's more likely that over time you'll increase this willingly and already have the five minute habit to build on. Perhaps start with the going to yoga once a week, and the gym two or three and work up from there.
Sometimes getting started is the way to kick start your motivation. The action proceeds the motivation, and usually once we've started something we're likely to want to finish it. Starting a run with the aim of doing 5k might seem daunting, but when you hit that half way point it's highly unlikely you'll give up. You'll want to keep going and get the satisfaction of finishing what you started.
Build your A Team:
If you spend a lot of time with people that don't have similar habits or goals it can be much more challenging to stick to something new. If no one else in your circle goes to the gym or your friends scoff at the idea of meditation, it's likely to knock your motivation on the head. You could try encouraging your loved ones to join you at the gym. Or get to know the other members of your yoga classes, so you're able to create some accountability within the group. "See you on Wednesday" can have a powerful effect on your motivation come Wednesday, knowing you've told someone you'll be there. Start by telling the teacher and work up from there.
It's not all or nothing:
What we must remember is that it takes time to build a habit, depending on the complexity of the new task it could be from 18 and 250 days. But the longer you stick with it the easier it becomes. Week one will always be much more challenging than week eight. Bear in mind that if you miss a day, it's not all over. Step away from the 'all or nothing' concept. No damage has been done by missing one day, look to start again the very next one and get back on track.
Finally a little self love:
Looking at setting a habit for the sake of someone else, or what people might think of you rings alarm bells. This habit will most likely fail. Set your goals from a place of self love and not something your ego might want. If you want to get healthier then you're likely to succeed. If you want to join a gym because you want to look better for other people, you're less likely to stick to this habit. Be kind to yourself and keep your goals in line with your own principles and beliefs. If you go off track for a little while, get back to it with love ('I've been busy and trying to get more in would've been too stressful.' 'I'm excited about this goal again now'.) Frustration and lack of belief in yourself will become harder barriers to break in the future, ('I can't stick to anything'. 'I'll never be mobile'. 'I just can't wake up early'.) These negative thoughts become our truths if we tell ourselves enough. Let the truths you tell yourself have a positive impact on your life.
Alex Howarth, owner of GAIN Mobility, Fitness, Astanga, Hatha and Vinyasa teacher. Lover of meditation and writing. Even if I can't spell.