The Challenge of Creating a New Health Habit

Last week I pulled out a few relaxation cd’s that were stored away in a drawer. They’ve been there for years and I’ve been planning for a while to listen to them and practice again. They were given out at my former workplace as part of a package for an educational course on stress management.  The 5-class series was given by Eli Bay of the Relaxation Response Institute.  Eli Bay’s voice does for Relaxation what Barry White did for R n B.  By the end of each of his 3-hour classes, I would leave as relaxed as spaghetti al dente.  The requirement for signing up for the class (which the organization paid for and was free for employees and volunteers) was a commitment from participants that we would practice what we learned in class and follow through on certain relaxation and breathing exercises every day.

Interestingly and almost predictably, when Eli asked for a show of hands, most of the participants admitted that they didn’t practice and I’ll bet that most of us have these cd treasures collecting dust years later.

What is it about forming a new healthy habit that is so challenging and meets with our resistance?

This particular new habit, practicing deep relaxation and breathing for 25 minutes per day, is a delicious one and has many, many health benefits.  Experiencing the relaxation response is unbelievable: euphoric and blissful.  It feels really, really good.  And still committing to it is a challenge for most of us.  Our inner critic and saboteur loves to give us all these reasons why we shouldn’t make this healthy change for ourselves!!

Here are 5 things that are great to keep in mind when creating a new health ritual:

  1. Awareness of how this health habit aligns with your CORE VALUE(s)? Some examples might be that it honours a value of calm, peace, harmony, zest or vitality – somewhere in there is a value that is wanting to be honoured.
  2. A sense of PURPOSE – what’s important about this new health habit?
  3. Making it a RITUAL – “A positive ritual is a behaviour that becomes automatic over time – fueled by some deeply held value” - a concept discussed in the book by Tony Schwartz & Jim Loehr, The Power of Full Engagement.  And forget that 21-days-to-create-a-new-behaviour guideline…it’s more like 21 weeks!
  4. PATIENCE with yourself – recognizing your humanness and giving yourself permission to fail on this journey to better health.
  5. Your sense of HUMOUR…for keeping it all in perspective and for noticing your inner critic/saboteur!