One of the biggest wellness untruths we buy into is the idea of establishing permanently consistent habits. A coaching client recently revealed to me that one of their greatest fears and one of the things holding them back from trying to exercise more regularly was the prospect of putting time and energy into a habit which eventually will fall away. The all or nothing approach ad the fear of ‘failing’ to maintain a habit often keeps us stuck in inaction.
I’m currently experiencing a dip in how regularly I’m exercising and that’s completely ok. I’d love to be doing more but right now my body is mostly saying no when I visualise performing the usual types of exercise I do. There’s a lot of illness going around at the moment and my feeling is that my body is mostly occupied with fighting off incoming viruses (your immune system is responsible for muscle repair, so if you’re feeling similarly not-strong at this time of year, that could be a reason).
But more generally speaking, I realised that this experience could be very disquieting for a lot of people, so I’ve been reflecting on the mindset shifts I’ve needed to make over the last decade of my journey with nutrition, yoga, fitness and self care in order to be more accepting of the ebbs and flows in my habits. I hope these will help you as much as they’ve helped me:
Having a habit is never linear. This was the biggest shift I needed to make to drop the disappointment and frustration in myself. Instead of trying to keep yourself on the straight and narrow, try to embrace the idea of seasons of habits. They come, they go, they come back (or they don’t). Yes of course we require some structure and willpower to establish habits, but especially when you’ve been enjoying something for a while, it’s ok if there are then periods where, for whatever reason, it’s just not happening.
The body knows. Sometimes when we don’t want to do something, it’s exactly what we need to do in order to shift our energy/state of mind and feel better. Sometimes when we don’t want to do something, it’s because we really shouldn’t do it. I find that my body always knows better than my mind. Instead of rationalising and trying to talk yourself into something, let yourself become quiet, take a few deep breaths and then take a moment to visualise (not just what it looks like, but how it feels) the activity you’re deciding whether to do. Your body will tell you yes or no, and if you struggle to understand the cue, don’t worry – with time and practice you’ll know it very clearly. If you struggle with this one, you can also do the first 5 minutes of whatever you’re planning to do and then you’ll know pretty quickly whether it’s a yes or a no.
Intention isn’t enough. We all have a lot of intentions around our habits, but we have to enjoy whatever we’re doing or that habit will definitely fall under the category of ‘it came, it went quickly and it did not come back’. When you truly enjoy a habit (whether it’s a form of exercise, playing a musical instrument, learning a language or cooking), you can be much more confident that whenever you take a break from that thing, it’ll come back when you’re ready for it.
Process is so much more important than the outcome. This goes hand in hand with the last point. We focus on our goals and the outcome of a habit (lose ‘x-kgs’, become fluent in Chinese, become world-famous guitar player) and forget that that outcome is made up of many minutes over many days over potentially months and years doing the thing. So try to enjoy the process and don’t get fixated on the outcome.
I hope you’ll be kinder to yourself after reading this!
Trust yourself, you’ve got this.
PS. Well & Truly are about to move to a shiny new website, which we’re so excited for! Watch this space!