How to Form New Habits

So you think you need a change, no, you know you need a change, but how do you change?

It's actually simple. You just start. 

Now, in saying that, it is simple, but it's hard.

As humans we innately like comfort, which is the farthest thing from change. This can make creating new habits hard. The good news is that as humans we also have complete control of our minds. This gives us the power to make the decision to change any time we want to. The key is that you have to want to. Someone who doesn't believe that working out 3 times a week will improve their health, won't want to workout, thus won't make the change. However, if it is important to you, and you want it, then you can achieve it.

How do you know if you want it enough?

First of all, you'll know. Listen to your gut, what does it tell you?

Secondly, it has to solve a problem for you, it has to be a pain point that you just can't handle anymore. Maybe it's the way you feel when you look in the mirror, so you want to workout. Maybe it's the way you feel sick to your stomach during every exam from anxiety, so you want to learn to meditate... whatever it is for you, it's a pain point that you want to stop.

Thirdly, it's the intention behind the change. Why do you want to make the change? Is it for you or someone else? Ultimately the change has to be for you. Maybe it starts out because of someone else, but it will only stick if you believe in it too. Say someone made a comment about your appearance that hurt you. That might initiate you going to the gym at first, but you won't stick with it unless you begin to believe you are doing it for yourself and not just to spite that person. Why? Well, the truth is that people will always make mean comments, people will always say things that don't sit right with you, and no matter how many changes you make, you won't be able to please them all. You'll get exhausted, burnt out, and unmotivated after awhile. The only thing you can control is you, which is why the change has to be because of you. Then, you have to have your own intention. How will this change help your pain point? This is the driving force behind your change. Every time that you want to quit (and you will want to a lot), you come back to this reason, i.e. this change will make me healthier which will help reverse my pre-diabetes so I can live to meet my grandchildren. Try to make sure your intention is as specific as possible. This is YOUR why. 

When you know in your heart that this change is something you really want to make (or maybe even need to make), you have to hone your goal. Make sure your goal is extremely specific, i.e. 'I want to lose weight' versus 'I want to lose 30 pounds' or 'I want to go to the gym more' versus 'I want to go to the gym 3 days a week'. It's best if your goal has a quantitative component, something you can precisely measure/track to see if you are achieving your goal (30 pounds, 3 days, etc.). Also make sure that your goal has a specific timeline, i.e. 'I want to lose 30 pounds' versus 'I want to lose 30 pounds in 3 months' or 'I want to go to the gym 3 times a week' versus 'I want to go to the gym on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays'. 

Once you have honed your goal and are committed to making a change, you just start.

Even doing it once shows yourself that you can actually do it, and that's the first step. Our brains love to play tricks on us and make things seem much harder than they are. After you've done it once, no matter how much mental toughness it required, you showed yourself that you COULD do it. 

To ensure you set yourself up for success, I recommend getting an accountability partner and creating a reward. The importance of both of these is to keep you on track when you lose motivation and/or when your brain creeps in and starts to whisper unhelpful things in your ear. 

1. Accountability Partner- This is a designated person in your life that you have told your goal to and asked them to keep you on track. Remember that this is your journey, express exactly what you will need from them. I would sit down and have a discussion with this person, tell them the change you want to make, your intention, how you plan to stay on track, and what they can do to help you. It may be something like, "can you please remind me to set out my gym clothes and bag on Sunday night so that I have everything prepared to just wake up and go to the gym on Monday morning. This will reduce the amount of excuses I can make when I'm tired." This conversation will look different for everyone, try to identify what specifically you will need from this partner before you have the discussion. An accountability partner may also be someone who has the same goal as you and you are in it together. Maybe you and your partner are committed to losing 30 pounds and going to the gym on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Thus, when one of you is feeling unmotivated the other person is there to drag them to the gym and vice versa. 

2. Reward- This isn't necessary but I find it really helpful. You name a goal that you are working towards, aside from all the benefits of the actual habit change itself, i.e. when I lose 30 pounds in 3 months I will buy myself that new blue bathing suit I love from the Victoria Secret website. Notice how even the reward is VERY specific. 

Lastly, SAY IT! Say it loud, and say it proud. Tell everyone your goal and share your progress. This may seem extremely scary because...well...failure. If you don't tell anyone, you are essentially saying to the universe that you already think you're going to fail. Be confident in yourself, trust yourself, and tell everyone! PLUS this makes you accountable to everyone. Sometimes this is enough to motivate people when they feel like giving up, because that little voice in their head starts to say, "what will people think if I quit?" or "your mom believed in me so much, how can I tell her I quit?", all things that will convince you to just stick with it. 

It is okay to mess up, it is only a failure if you don't get back up and start again. The next day, just start again. Restart your timeline to day 1 and begin working towards your goal again. 

MY CURRENT PERSONAL HABIT CHANGE

I have tried to meditate consistently for a long time and always failed, however I was never fully committed. My goal wasn't specific, I didn't have a set timeline (I want to meditate everyday), I didn't have a specific intention (meditation is good for you), I didn't have a reward, and I didn't have an accountability partner (actually I didn't tell anyone because I was afraid of failure, which ultimately I did. Why? Because I thought I was going to fail before I even began). 

This time my goal is very specific and my intention is very clear: 

My current goal is to meditate for 10 minutes everyday for 30 days. 

My intention is to meditate everyday because it helps reduce my anxiety throughout the day and allows me to be less reactive. I feel better when I am less reactive because I am kinder and have more patience. 

My timeline is 30 days, for 10 minutes every day. This is something very manageable and achievable for me (sometimes I even do it twice a day).

My accountability partner is my boyfriend. He supports me by being quiet and watching the puppies while I meditate so they don't distract me or get burned by my candles. 

My reward is an Alo Yoga Warrior Mat that is $125. I really want this yoga mat, but it is something I would never justify buying it for myself for no reason, so it is becoming my reward. 

I also made myself accountable to EVERYONE who follows me on Instagram, and I update my Insta Story everyday when I've meditated. 

I am currently on Day 7 and I am feeling great! 

I would LOVE to help keep you accountable, share your goals with me on Instagram (tag me in your posts or direct message me: @christina.maria.yoga)!

Xo, Christina

Christina DeFranco