Yogis believe it takes 40 days to break a habit. Some scientists believe it takes 28 days. Others believe it takes 66 days or 90 days. Whatever number YOU choose to believe, breaking a habit doesn’t just happen overnight. And maintaining a healthy habit doesn’t happen once X number of days are finished. Self improvement is a life long, beautiful journey!
And thankfully, we are lucky to have so many tools and resources out there to help make the process a little easier.
To become a certified yoga teacher, we had to do 40 consecutive days of sadhana (daily spiritual practice). Waking up at 4AM to do yoga and meditation was not easy, especially when I was studying late at night and going to bed after midnight. I had to change my entire sleep pattern, eating pattern, and study pattern.
On the first attempt I made it to 28 days. Ugh, I was disappointed at myself. The second attempt I made it to 15 days. Now I was frustrated. Why couldn’t I complete this simple task? After tweaking a few things (which included changing my attitude and motivations), I finally completed the 40 days on the third attempt. Wahe guru!
Here are 5 tips I found helpful and hopefully can help YOU to create healthy habits for yourself:
1. FIND THE RIGHT MOTIVATION
It was easier for me to get up in the morning to do sadhana when the positives of doing it outweighed the positives of not doing it. So even though sleeping in would feel nice, I made myself believe I would feel even better after I did my sadhana (and most times I did!). I motivated myself by focusing on that blissed out, after glow feeling….which sometimes never happened. But when it did, I clung to that feeling for dear life and tried to not forget it because that feeling is what kept me motivated.
What is your motivation? It can be a goal, a feeling, a belief. It has to be something so strong that will outweigh all the temptations of instant gratification. Will accountability keep you motivated? Will the satisfaction of reaching your goals keep you motivated? For me, it was an experience of bliss and happiness that kept me motivated. It might take some time to find the right motivation for you, so experiment with it and change motivations when you feel its necessary.
2. KEEP TRACK OF YOUR SUCCESS
Another motivation for me was being able to put a big fat red X on each day I did my sadhana. At first I used a physical calendar, but that didn’t work for me because I didn’t have it with me all the time. Then I started using this app which tracks your goals in the same way, with a big fat X on each day you succeed. It also allows you to track multiple goals at one time and is super easy to use. Nothing is better than seeing your progress on paper!
3. THE HABIT FACTOR
This is another great app that tracks your goals and habits. It’s a little more complicated to use than the one above, but it is very thorough in how it tracks. You can set a timeline for your goals, link goals with specific habits, and track your percentage of success within a time period. It even shows you an overview of success in chart form for all you visual people. My favorite part about this app is the quote section in the beginning which has a ton of motivational quotes to keep you focused on your goal: Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses – George Washington Carver. How is THAT for motivation?
4. ASSEMBLE YOUR HYPE TEAM
You need people there by your side who will support you in your transition. Find people who are already living with the habits you want to create, or who have successfully quit habits you’re working on. Even if it’s just one person you can call when you’re feeling weak, you need accountability and support from those around you to keep you motivated and focused.
5. FORGIVE YOURSELF
There will be those days when you weren’t able to say no to that chocolate cake or that cigarette. You will be angry and frustrated. And that’s OK! Don’t beat yourself up over your mistakes. I think it’s great that our culture values success and having high expectations, but we should also value making mistakes and practicing self forgiveness. They go hand in hand. If you don’t practice self forgiveness, seeds of guilt and shame can become trapped in your subconscious to keep you from moving forward. Give yourself a sincere apology, accept that apology from yourself, and then start fresh the next day.