How to Build Self-Care Habits That Stick
“Good habits once established are just as hard to break as bad habits, and bad habits are easier to abandon today than tomorrow.”
I cannot tell you how many emails I receive that say, “I understand what I need to do, but how?!” There is this frustrating stage between knowledge and practice called “change” that most people fear, misunderstand, and make up excuses for avoiding.
Without change, knowledge is simply hearsay. Without walking the walk, talking it will never be enough.
To help you get some direction, I’ve rounded up 7 powerful, important tips that I both practice and preach. Please take these tips as guideposts rather than commands. Find a way to make them fit that feels comfortable, like slipping the right puzzle piece into the perfect spot.
Without further ado, some guidance on building habits that honour, respect, and fulfill you:
1. Don’t do things you hate
This seems obvious, but there is a reason I put this one first. Every single client I have ever had who hated exercise simply hated the kind of exercise s/he was doing. Every person I’ve met who claims to hate people has simply been interacting with people who were critical, disrespectful, and even abusive. Each self-care habit you engage in must be customized especially for you, and the first step is to stop imposing upon yourself routines and activities that make you feel like you’re dying inside.
2. Find out what you love
This also seems obvious, and there is also a reason why I put it second. I have first-hand and third-person experienced this “if it’s good for you, it feels bad” mindset we’ve been conditioned into. This belief system helps sell more diet and exercise products. That’s why 9 out of 10 diet and exercise plans fail within the first year.
When you’re not doing what you love, you lose determination. When you lose determination, you’re back to square one and ready to buy more products. Get out of the consumer mindset and into the love mindset. Find healthy food that you love to cook and love to eat. Find a way to move your body that genuinely feels good. Find a way to make money that serves your talents and serves the world. Don’t settle for anything less than raw, pulsating passion.
3. Recover from “expert addiction”
There is a curious and toxic trend in our society to trust outside sources of advice and approval more than we trust our own selves. If you want to build lifetime habits, the only approval you need is your own. If you do take advice from experts, take it as a suggestion. Pick through it, find what feels authentic and helpful, and discard the rest.
Do not allow your path to be dictated by others. Find your own way. You are your own expert.
4. Develop a daily self-care routine
Speak kindly to yourself every day. Move your body every day. Connect with your spirit every day. Eat mindfully every day. It is much easier to do something every single day than to do it 3 times a week or 5 times a week.
When you do something every single day, you easily develop a habit. That goes for exercise just as much as it does for watching television. When a good habit is formed, you’ll feel the same urges to do it as you’d feel for a bad habit.
5. Play within your routine
Commit to the structure of the routine while allowing yourself to play within it. If you try to impose a rigid structure with rigid activities, you will soon feel suffocated. If you try to play with structure and play with activities, you will get off track.
In order to feel free as well as fulfilled, you must allow for structure as well as play in your habits. Allow for your routine to have a basic structure (i.e. “Every day, I will work out, cook, read, and meditate”) and allow yourself to play with the activities within that structure (i.e. “From day to day, I allow myself to change what I do for exercise, what I eat, where I meditate, etc.”).
6. Wake up to love
The first hour after awakening is the best time of the day to build your mindset. You have a perfect opportunity to fill your mind with thoughts of love, compassion, and peace. After practicing this for only a short while, you’ll find yourself waking up to automatic thoughts of love, compassion, and peace. Don’t underestimate the power of starting off on the right foot.
Remember that the feeling of peace awaits each time you let go. The purpose of caring for yourself is to do it in a way that is graceful, flowing, and kind to yourself. If you begin to get stressed, find a way to relax.
If meditating is difficult, do a guided meditation or find some other way to loosen your thoughts (such as painting or playing music). If intense activity seems unfathomable, go for a walk or do some light stretching. If you’re feeling unmotivated, watch an inspiring talk or talk to a friend who understands.
Remember that building your mindset and your relationship with your body, mind, and spirit is something you will be doing for the rest of your life. There is nowhere to climb to or any finish line to reach. Allow yourself to enjoy it and be grateful for the opportunity. Life is an opportunity.
And, of course, (again and always) combine these tips in a way that feels right to you!
(Photo by Britt-knee)