Understanding Habits

My summer has thus far evolved around habits. (Notice I didn’t say “bad” habits). The struggle in controlling them and my puzzlement over the body’s and spirit’s relationship with them has taught me some things that I’d like to share. As with most things dissected a bit, the nature of habits is so much simpler than it feels! Understanding them will help us manage your life better!

(I realize, and I hope you do also, that we already know most things at our spiritual level, so let’s just take these tips as good reminders that escape us in the emotional present.)

I’ve been teeter-tottering with my own habits with carbs, lack of exercise and askew priorities. I have also been in the middle of helping my toddler with her nursing habit. I’ve held several discussions with people about habits and have observed others’ habits the past couple of months also. Obvious conclusion – it’s a frustrating issue and habits are
POWERFUL!

Helping my children with their habits (an ongoing issue) has probably taught me the most. In some part, children will give up their habit when they’re ready (which leaves me feeling like an inadequate parent—for not being able to “train” them myself). The other part, which is how we help our self and children get ready, is our ego simply can’t imagine a positive future without that habit. So how do we deal with that ego and start to work with habits that are not in our highest good?

First, as typical with my work, it is absolutely essential to approach habits we have that we think we should change with LOVE. I know this may make you roll your eyes, but the only way change sticks is if it is clear, is in our best interest, and is welcomed with open, self-appreciating arms.

  1. Step one is to be patient and kind to yourself, as opposed to being forceful and angry, for having the habit. Clarify why you want to change the habit and make the choice from a positive place –that you choose to make a better habit because you love yourself and deserve better. Do you even want to change the habit or do you just think you should? ‘Should’s’ won’t get any of us anywhere – it means we’re simply not ready. Don’t rush this part of the process! Just as an employee works better in an environment of support and trust—so does your spirit! You need time to integrate the fact that the change will happen – the preparing for change can be much longer than the actual change! Though sometimes awareness is all we need. Change seems to work this way – the spiritual medicine comes into play quietly, then it filters into our consciousness and we deal with the emotional preparations. Once we have changed, lovingly, on a spiritual and emotional level – BAM! The physical just happens. 

It is common, I am very guilty of this, to say something like “I am disgusting for not being able to control my urges to eat sugary sweets!” In addition to harming the self-confidence we’d need to make a better choice, this attitude also causes unrealistic expectations (such as quitting smoking in two days). But the change will happen a lot smoother, and quicker, if the whole situation is approached from love and understanding. So much easier than our usual route—it just takes some caring inquiry (why we choose not to do caring inquiry
is not a bad place to start).

Now when it is the habit of a loved one we simply must remember that they call the shots here. Overly encouraging people, no matter how old they are, to give up a habit simply does not work—they see it as a threat, as being forced away from an innate need. They attach to it further and feel unaccepted. The best way to help them is to support them in their process to get ready.

2. Note that the habit is present because it offers something of deep value to you, it satisfies an innate need. Even if the habit is purely physical – these are the strong ones, it serves a bigger purpose for you. Acknowledging this does two things, one, it gives props to your spirit for taking care of you and two, it helps you see what you can do to find another way to meet that need, thus negating the need for the habit. A positive spin! 

Let’s say you have a habit of checking Facebook and watching Netflix at bedtime instead of spending quality time with your partner, journaling or, the enlightening practice of sleep (OK, this is my priority issue). I get so frustrated – why is this my choice? Well the needs to escape, be alone yet connect to the world and relax are potent ones. If I really wanted to change this I’d need to promise my ego another way to replace those needs. Additionally, values in habits can also be unconscious. The body has its own habit of routine. My carb habit is biological – when the body is out-of-balance it craves what keeps it out of balance
because that is the new routine. But food related habits are typically emotional in nature also – so they’re the hardest because they get us on two accounts!

3. Lastly, imagine, really imagine, having a new habit (not having lost something, but gained something else) – focusing on the obvious benefits. This feeds our ego in a really good way. With children, however, they really cannot do this. They need an immediate and known reward that matters to them – like stickers (Ilana wants ribbons). (I’d avoid money and candy as rewards for making good habits) 

At this point we’re ready to give ourselves or our children a push. The push shouldn’t be so bad, particularly if we’re patient and kind enough to take baby steps over a big plunge, but if the initial stages have been set patiently and with care, even a big plunge should be much easier. The push is GR-eat (I think I can, I think I can) if we’ve rounded up some help (like implementing Emotional Freedom Technique to give up smoking, or calling on a fitness coach to help lose weight)!

Now implementing this three point advice is another issue (“Ha, that’s funny Lynn” I hear you saying, “it’s not that easy.”) Of course it isn’t easy – I’ve made more work for you! But it’s simpler work, I promise. Keep me up to date on your own process with any habits. If nothing else, if you’ve come to understand yourself a bit better and why the habit is there. I feel I’ve made some progress but I can only address one habit at a time – I’m
brewing in a lot of my preparation stages currently. Now the next step is to LOVE enough to replace the understanding with a better solution!

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