Every morning without fail, I go about the same routine. I love to wake up slowly. It is just my thing. I stumble to the coffee maker half awake and grab that warm mixture I create every day. Then, without thinking, I get into bed, meditate, write, read, or be as I drink my coffee. This is my time to be me. It’s a habit I have created over a long period of time, and I don’t deviate from it much.
Most of the time, when we talk about habits, we think of bad ones. There are good ones too! In fact, I have found the good ones can become a great comfort. They are just like a security blanket because we know they will be accomplished in the same manner we always do. We can count on them, and we don’t have to think about them. Habits don’t need will power to accomplish them. They are automatic conditioned acts and responses we have created over time.
We only become aware of them when something comes along to interrupt them. One morning I woke up, and the ice maker was spewing water all over the kitchen floor. The line had broken, and I grabbed towels right and left, attempting to ensure the water was contained until it could be attended to. The one thing I noticed more than anything was my morning coffee and meditative time was interrupted. Had nothing unusual happened, I would not have given it a second thought.
Usually, when we want to make changes, we think we need will power to do it. Maybe it’s a new diet or exercise program. Or, it might be a new direction we want our life to go. Will power is not what we need, though. Will power never works. Only habits work. Whatever we want to accomplish has to be made into a habit, or we don’t do it. It has to be so automatic that we don’t even notice we are doing it unless it is interrupted, just like my coffee time.
I have heard it takes 21 days for the brain to establish a new habit. It has to be done every single day the same way it was the day before. It might take less time or even more depending on differences in people. The conditioning is the same, though. Some might liken this to classical conditioning in the field of psychology, and that is pretty much what it is. It does not have to be complicated, though. Just choose a new habit to work on and commit to it daily. It will become a daily routine over time, and you will do it without even thinking about it.
So, forget the diet will power or whatever it is you think mind over matter will accomplish. Just do the same thing daily for a period of time until you see the result. It will come! If you brush your teeth daily, have coffee and meditate, enjoy some time out in the sun before your shower, without even thinking about it, you can find another thing to add, and your life will be happier for it!
Loving you from here,
Dr. Jenine Marie Howry, PhD
Rubin, Gretchen (2015). Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives. Crown Publishers New York. Print.