• The Super Powers of Habits

    Every day we make hundreds of decisions. We decide what time we want to get up, what we want to eat for breakfast, what we want to wear that day, what time we want to leave for work, whether an email needs to be responded to or not. But are these actual decisions we make or are they habits, just loops of action/reaction – reflexes repeated over and over and triggered by other feelings and emotions that we have no control over. Feelings like hunger, anger, loneliness, fear and the desire to be rewarded. If we had to decide what to do from scratch every day for every single action in our lives, we would probably not make it out the door because every single thing would have to be evaluated from scratch. In fact, we really need these habits and loops so our brains don’t have to work so hard and burn out.

    While many of these loops are probably innocuous, and cause little or no harm, some of them can develop into bad habits and can be almost impossible to eliminate. 

    A family is together driving home in their car at an hour that is normally well past dinner time and they pass a Mac Donalds sign on the road. The kids are hungry, mom doesn’t feel like cooking, it’s inexpensive and it tastes good. They decide to stop and buy fast food rather than wait for something that they know would be much healthier. They rationalize it because it is only this once. This one time. Big deal. But then it soon becomes 2x a month, then once a week, and then 3x a week. Now it has become a habit that can have very negative health implications. They are in a self-destructive loop that is impossible to break.

    How many times in your life have you done something that you knew was not especially good behavior and you did it anyway. Maybe shopping and spending way too much money, arriving to work late, eating unhealthy food, smoking, using drugs, gambling, drinking too much, staying up late watching television, playing endless video games, spending the entire day on Facebook. The list is endless. And after a relative short period of time, maybe only few months down the road you realize it’s become part of your life – a habit that is triggered by something else in your life - and is almost impossible to eliminate no matter how much you want to or how hard you try.

    Now think now about your Jivamukti Yoga Practice. You know it is good for you. You know you feel better after a class. You are more relaxed, you sleep better, you have peace of mind, your muscles are less tense. But every time you want to get to class, something gets in the way. A text message. A call from your boss. A like on Instagram. A comment on Facebook. You’re hungry. You’re tired after work. You want to get to class 3x a week but it seems impossible.

    How do you break a bad habit? — By creating new ones or triggers.

    It’s been proven that if you create one new action on a regular basis, it can trigger many others and eventually transform your life.

    What if the family packed some fruit and vegetable pieces for the drive on the way home and when the Mac Donalds sign was about to show up around the bend they broke out the container with the fruit and raw vegetables? Maybe you decide not to pick up your phone for the first half hour that you’re awake and you sit quietly. Maybe you decide to pick up an actual physical book and read it each day for 30 minutes each day. Or you pick up a note pad and just draw and doodle. Maybe when you are stressed during the day you close your eyes, stop, and take 5 deep inhales and exhales. Maybe you buy an analog alarm and keep all electronic devices out of your bedroom at night. Maybe you set up ½ hr during the day to check your social media accounts and limit it to that. Maybe when you feel like you don’t want to go to Jivamukti class you just find your mat and pick it up and open the door.

    Try an experiment this week and create your own new habit or task and make some small addition or change in your life. You should also create a reward for completing the action successfully. Something you look forward to. Just make sure you don’t go to class and then make your reward a pint of Haagen Das.

    See what happens. Maybe your life will transform into something that you always wanted.