While changing long standing habits takes time and can be difficult, I know from experience how transformative the process can be. Learning how to release destructive habit patterns and adopt constructive, empowering, life-affirming habits has changed my life.
From the way we engage with ourselves (physically, mentally and spiritually) to the way we engage with others, habits are personal. As a result it’s normal to feel attached to and even protective of them.
Habits shape our personalities and influence the way we interpret and experience the world around us.
Before I go further let me be clear: I would never tell you any of your habits are “bad” — this isn’t that kind of post…
I will tell you this:
- You have the power to cultivate and practice discernment at any age or stage of life.
- You have the power to say “yes” to habits that create more space for nourishment, joy and support in your life and “no” to habits that deplete your time, energy, emotional reserves and resources.
The day I started creating more space in my life to consider and tend to my well-being holistically was the day my mindset began to noticeably change in significant and uplifting ways.
The 3 simple and life-affirming habits that have changed my life…
1. Maintaining a supportive morning routine.
Ayurveda (“sister science” to Yoga) places a great deal of importance on the tradition of Dinacharya — a daily routine intend to promote balance, clarity and nourishment through various self-care activities (stretching, self-massage, etc.) preformed at roughly the same time everyday, often in the morning.
An optimal morning routine:
- Is unique to the individual.
- Requires curiosity and experimentation to cultivate.
- Fluctuates with the seasons.
The most important thing to remember is that a morning routine should be personally significant, sustainable, flexible, uplifting, enriching, nourishing and supportive. It should not be rigid, constrictive, expensive, oppressive, dogmatic or stifling.
My morning routine is flexible but always rests on the same three pillars:
- Care for my body in the form bathing, light movement and eating a nourishing meal.
- Care for my mind in the form of intellectual tasks that stimulate it and restorative practices that promote its relaxation.
- Care for my spirit in the form of spiritual study and introspective self-reflection (also known as Svadhyaya, one of the 5 Niyamas or “observances” of Ashtanga Yoga).
A foundational part of my morning routine is waking early enough to allow myself the first hour of the day to check-in with myself and my home before engaging with the external world via email, social media, devices, etc. This practice allows me to honor my boundaries around access to my time and energy, and promotes harmony between my external professional/social life and my internal personal life.
2. Slowing down to chew my food thoroughly.
For a combination of reasons I’ve always been a fast eater. I’m also no stranger to digestive issues like bloating and indigestion. When I stopped multitasking my meals (eating while working and watching TV during dinner) and started setting that time aside to be fully present while eating, I began to notice how little I chewed my food before swallowing, how quickly my meals ended and, subsequently, how bloated and sleepy I felt shortly after eating.
Thoroughly and mindfully chewing food has many benefits including improving digestion and nutrient absorption. It also creates space to notice the more subtle energetic effects of the foods we eat.
A mindful eating experiment — the next time you sit down to eat, pause while taking a few deep breaths throughout the meal and ask yourself:
- How does the food look? Is it colorful? does it look appetizing?
- What does the food smell like? Does it smell sweet? Spicy?
- What does each bite of food taste like? Does it taste sour? Salty?
- What is the texture of the food? Is it crunchy? Is it creamy?
- What is the temperature of the food? Is it hot? Is it cold?
We diminish some of some the most enjoyable aspects of eating when we rush through our meals. Food can be a conduit for social exchange, a source of pleasure, and a tool for deep satisfaction, nourishment and healing. When we chew thoroughly and mindfully we can engage, stimulate and strengthen all of our senses at once.
3. Daily walks even when (especially when) I don’t feel like it.
Walking is one of my favorite forms of exercise because it doesn’t require any special equipment and I can do it at my own pace.
That said if I’m feeling blue or my energy level is low, I don’t always feel like going for a walk. On those days especially I find a short walk around the neighborhood to be incredibly beneficial as walking is known to:
- Increase blood flow.
- Decrease stagnation in the limbs.
- Promote the release of mood-boosting hormones.
- Energize the body and mind.
My #1 tip for altering existing habits: start with one or two bite-sized manageable changes, aiming to shift time and energy away from depleting habits and toward enriching habits incrementally over time.
Some examples of small changes that quickly yield benefits are:
- Drinking a glass of water before drinking coffee in the morning.
- Taking 5 minutes in the morning to stretch, meditate or journal before engaging with the external world.
- Pausing for a moment of gratitude before eating meals.
- Going for a walk after a meal.
- Ending the day with reading or journaling instead of scrolling through social media before bed.
- Establishing and maintaining a reasonable bedtime.
Do you find changing habits in a sustainable way easier said than done? Did you find this post inspirational or helpful? What’s one small step toward adopting more empowering habits you can see yourself making this week? Let’s continue this conversation in the comments section below.
Wishing you well! ~ Elizabeth K.