Habit Junkie

Sometimes when we hear the words habit, our mind flips to thoughts of the unhealthy ones like smoking, drinking, taking drugs and biting our nails but when we install good habits in our lives they can have an immense impact.

I have recently become more informed about the power of this by reading books like, ‘The Sweet Spot’ by Christine Carter and ‘Better than Before’ by Gretchen Rubin. Both these books are inherently about habits. They are about the positive benefit of good habits and how to establish them in your life.

I guess I was a habit junkie in my previous life as a Primary School Headteacher, but I probably didn’t realise at the time. Although I really looked forward to the six-week break, (mainly due to being utterly exhausted) I also loved the return to school in September. I realised only recently that I liked term time because of its predictable set of routines and its habitual nature. Certain things happened at certain times and because these things were very predictable, it meant there was more headspace to deal with the pressing matter I came up against in my everyday life, which required more imaginative thinking.

That is one of the reasons that habits are so powerful. Because they don’t require conscious thought, this releases your mind for your conscious thoughts to be used for something more useful. In fact, by creating habitual behaviours you create more actual space inside your head, and, if you are a super busy, parent, grandparent, business owner, employee, etc., you can see why additional headspace might come in handy.

Imagine if you had to think consciously about all those things that are habitual in your life already like driving a car and brushing your teeth morning and night (as I hope you do). Your mind would literally explode with the pressure to have all those conscious thoughts.

The other advantage to developing habits is that they help to get your subconscious mind on board with what you would like to achieve whether that is a business or health goal. I love the analogy Christine Carter uses in ‘the Sweet Spot’ when she talks about the tiny rider and the huge elephant. Where your conscious mind is the tiny rider and your subconscious mind the huge elephant. Your elephant has got into the habit of riding the same path (habit) over and over but if you take time to train it to tread a new path (habit), you can the save the time and energy you would have spent encouraging that unwieldy elephant onto the new path.

But, of course, setting up new habits is no mean feat! We have all tried and failed to do this numerous times and you may have noticed that once you fail, it is much harder to start again. They key here, Carter says, it to start off really small. I remember when I started my meditation habit, I started with just 5 minutes but Carter advocates starting off even smaller. For example, she suggests, to establish a morning meditation habit, just beginning by making your first step by getting up in the morning and sitting for a few moments in the space where you will be meditating. It is recommended to do this every day for about 30 days and then take the next step which will be to actually meditate for a short period. The key here is not to run before you can walk. At this stage, the establishing of the habit is more important than the quality of what you do.

Over a period of time, I have established a great morning routine which I am really happy with. It is based loosely on Hal Elrod’s ‘Miracle Morning’. As soon as my alarm goes off, I nip to the loo and then dress for my workout. I then sit in the chair in my bedroom and meditate for about 30 minutes. The next part of my morning routine is exercise; usually some Pilates or yoga (it used to be high impact exercise but with a recent injury, I had to change the type of exercise I do, but the habit has stayed firmly in place). I recite my affirmations and listen to an audiobook whilst I get ready and then share a healthy breakfast with my fiancé. By the time he leaves at about 7.30am I am ready to start working on my business.

Until recently, this type of habitual behaviour was much more evident in my private life than my business and this could mean me spending time unsure of what I should be doing first, procrastinating and not prioritising the most important tasks like writing blogs like this one. However, I have recently changed all that. Having decided not to see clients until 11am most mornings, I have established a set of tasks which I do every day and am developing a schedule to do them in the same order every day. This means that key tasks like writing, social media, developing products and following up leads are getting done much more consistently. I now know what I expect of myself and this has made doing it a whole lot easier.

I know that I have created so much headspace by establishing habits in my life and I have noticed that this has made me feel less stressed and more on top of my daily tasks. I have more energy and thought power for creativity too.

If you would like help with understanding and establishing habits, I recommend the two books I mentioned earlier but, if you are really stuck and just cannot install a new habit, please get in touch. Hypnotherapy can install new habits more rapidly than doing it on your own.