Breaking Good Habits

Image source: cogdogblog via Flickr

We often talk about learning how to break bad habits and forming new, healthy habits, and the topic seems to become especially relevant during the new year, when many of us are working hard to make new resolutions and make the next year better than the last. But I don’t want to talk about that. I want to talk about breaking habits both bad and good.

Why would you break good habits? Seems silly – if a habit is healthy or beneficial to you in some way, why would you want to break it? Simply put, a habit is something that you are automatically inclined to do. Rather than making a conscious decision, you are on autopilot mode. Your brain has already decided that what you’re doing is what you need to be doing right now, without you stopping to evaluate whether this is in fact the case — the very opposite of conscious living.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to go through life on autopilot. Now don’t get me wrong here, I’m not suggesting that you give up the good habit of brushing your teeth, but maybe it is time for a re-evaluation of the habits in your life and what they’re doing for you. It has definitely come to that point for me. You see, as I sit here I have a full-sized baby kicking at my insides waiting to come out any day now. More accurately, I am the one who is waiting. At nine months pregnant, my life is significantly changed; my yoga teaching is on hold, my yoga practice is significantly modified, my weekly runs are cancelled, and my to-d0 lists and objectives often go uncompleted because I am just too tired. I have lots of free time, but with most of my hobbies and regular activities currently unavailable to me, I have found myself feeling uninspired and left out lately, waiting to return to my regular life. There are only so many walks around the neighbourhood I can take.

After sitting around feeling bad about it for a few days, I’ve finally realized what the problem is: my good habits. Most of my regular good habits, like yoga and running, have become suddenly unavailable to me and I am thrown. My autopilot wants me to do things I can’t do at the moment, and because I’ve spent so much time listening to it instead of deciding how I want to live my life each day, I feel lost.

So it’s time to get creative. Time to put aside my habits and the life I’ve been living automatically, and decide each day what I want to do, where I want to go, and who I want to be.

Goodbye habits, hello conscious living. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m going to go make a pillow fort in my living room.

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A day of nothing reveals… well, a lot.

The other day I had nothing to do. No commitments, no classes to teach, no errands, no housework, and no people to see. I am currently away from home, staying in the city for a week taking a Kundalini Yoga training course, and I had a free day with nothing to do. I should have been elated. I should have been so excited for my free day – after all, who doesn’t like free?

But when I woke up that morning, I worried: what am I going to do today? Before I had even answered the question, I felt guilty. Guilty that I was here wondering how to fill my free time while my husband was back at home working. Guilty that I didn’t have more things that I had to do. And guilty at the thought that I could possibly, just maybe, actually spend the day doing whatever I wanted without having to achieve something.

This was followed by an immediately horrified reaction – a day without achieving something? Who would want that? So I ran through a mental list of things that I might possibly achieve today. Given that I really had nothing to do, this was a challenge, but then I remembered that I needed to go to the eye exam clinic and pick up another copy of my receipt while I was in town. Even better, I realized that it would mean I’d have to drive across the city and would probably take up the better part of my morning. Ooh, I could even squeeze in lunch and stretch it out a bit. Happy to have a purpose for my day, I set out. A few hours later, mission completed, I found myself back in my temporary home, faced with the same dilemma. Now what?

So naturally, I reverted back to my default state: finding a good book to read (Petite Anglaise, if anyone’s curious). And read. And read. And I probably would have kept reading late into the night if I hadn’t already decided to attend a couple of yoga classes that evening with some friends. So by the end of the evening, my day complete, I looked back on my free day – and it turns out you can learn a lot about yourself just by what you do with a free day:

Lesson #1: I put a lot of pressure on myself and because of that, carry a lot of guilt around with me. I’m not good at letting myself relax.

Lesson #2: I am an acheiver. I need to acheive. If I don’t acheive, I lose my sense of purpose completely, and I am lost.

Lesson #3: I am an escape artist. When bored, I look to escape. This takes different forms; most commonly both a literal escape (I just have go somewhere. Anywhere.) and a figurative escape through fiction books, which I devour like a hungry dinosaur on the throes of extinction.

Lesson #4: I need social contact, but am not good at initiating it. I don’t know how to just be social; I need a shared purpose, something that takes the pressure off myself. I think this goes back to my childhood insecurities and the day on the playground that I was told that, actually, this group of girls in my class had decided not to let me hang out with them.

So what does this all mean? Well I don’t know. How about you go have your own free day, and see what you learn, hmm?