Happy Habits

August Theme: Healthy Habits
Making Your Life and Practice Delicious

This month we dive deep into our habits. Studies show that our habits are the single biggest predictor of happiness levels. Everything from eating, sleeping, topics of conversation, to even how we think, is a habit of some sort. So if we want a leap forward in life satisfaction, it’s worth while shedding light on the habits and how we can sweeten the deal.

Some of you already know from my classes, that I’ve been on a 14 day sugar/dairy cleanse.  Not only has that been a huge eye opener as to how engrained little doses of sugar were in my daily diet, I’ve also come to discover, just how subconscious this habit is. Like today, I was at a place where I sometimes go to get work done. On the counter, they always have ginger chews. Just a little tempting bowl, sitting right there, where you go fill up your water glass. Today, despite being in the middle of the 14 day cleanse, I caught myself suddenly chewing on a ginger chew!! The thing was already in my mouth, put there with a totally unconscious zombie like motion, just because it was there in front of me. Before I even had the chance to remember that I’m doing sugar right now; see bowl of fun things, hand grabs fun sugary thing, in it goes into the mouth. It’s that quick. I grabbed a napkin and spit it out, as soon as I noticed, but it was just a weird thing to not have seen it even going in the first place. Tricky little habits!

It's been a really great time of noticing things like that, like how many times during the day, I crave sugar, and what in particular triggers a craving. My mind is just so wired around little sugar doses, it took this two-week self discipline to really see all the secret places sugar hides in my mind: at the end of a meal, when I’m feeling down, when I’m tired or bored.

Loaded up with facts about all the nasty things sugar does to us, from a book I'm currently reading, I’m now actually taking pleasure in letting those moments pass by without the usual habitual indulgence. And I’m certainly enjoying sugar’s replacement of: better mood, higher overall energy, deeper sleep, and my body feeling like I just shed about five years of life.

There’s habits that satisfy us in the short term, and those that benefit us in the long run.

From “Should” to “sweet desire…”
Most of us have no problem indulging in things. Come on… What’s your vice? Mid-afternoon latte? After dinner chocolate? Happy hour drink?  Yet, what people often report to me about their yoga or meditation practice is that they “should be better about it.”  I try as best I can to shift the mindset from “should” to one of sweet desire.

Lately, I’ve been setting aside more morning “me” time. In addition to my morning ritual of exercise and meditation, I’ve added time to read a quick chapter in a book, or article Something that offers insight into health and well-being. For years, I didn’t do much of that type of reading, because I had a “should” around it. “I should really read more.” The rebel in me, doesn’t respond well to “should’s.” In fact, the word should causes me to run in the opposite direction. I simply have to love it to do it. This is why I have a career I love, and I keep creating elements to my life that I love. I generally do what I love over what I should do.

“Should” implies something you aren’t really going to enjoy, but you know is good for you, like eating broccoli, or getting your taxes done early. No one ever says, I “should” eat more chocolate, or I should really get more massages. But what if in front of the phrase “meditate or do yoga more” we replace the “should” with “Hmm, delicious, I can’t wait.”

I invite you, to view your soul-supporting rituals with an air of indulgence, as if it was eating ice cream to go to yoga, or meditate daily. If we can create a craving around health, it becomes just like the things that are bad for us: irresistible. We get drawn to it through the subconscious, and then it’s less work to get ourselves to do it.  

Craving practice changes how we practice. If you arrive on the mat with the idea of “should” your practice is going to be an austere, disciplined self-expecting one. You’ll create attachment to achieving certain goals within the practice, and keep your “game” face on throughout the whole thing. But what if the whole thing was like a dip in a cool lake on a hot day? Something that just made you take that deep delicious sigh of relief, and smile? To make your practice this delicious will increase it’s benefits ten-fold, and just make you plain happier walking in and out of the room.