Creating A Daily Practice – Healthy Habits Create Healthy Change
I get it. Sometimes it seems counter-intuitive to sit in lotus pose with eyes shut when there are 800 other things you could be doing. I hope to help you understand the importance of fitting a daily practice into your day. When I work with others there are always skills and strategies that need to be incorporated as part of a change plan. For instance there needs to be time for self reflection, how do you know what your stress triggers are if you aren’t checking in, how do you know you can talk your self off the ledge if you aren’t practicing mindfulness? Practice helps you build the skills for change. In order to really get proficient at anything we need to do it repeatedly. When you practice, you grow, you expand, you improve.
Adding in time for exercise, journaling, healing practices, and spiritual practices is an absolute must in any change plan. Several years ago I went to an NLP training and the trainers talked about the way they started the day, they spent 20 minutes in meditation, 20 minutes exercising, and 20 minutes reading something that helped them expand either personally or professionally. That really resonated with me, I almost always spend my first hour in the morning reading, journaling, tapping, or listening to something that will inspire me. When I don’t have my morning time I feel like something is missing in my day.
What To Include
Your daily practice is really just for you. It is important to check in and determine the intention of your practice. If it is emotional healing, you may focus on journaling and tapping. If it is physical health, exercise should be a part of that plan or maybe meditation along with a green smoothie and a walk or yoga practice. My daily practice was initially more centered around emotional healing and now it is on personal and professional growth, so I do a variety of different things but typically there is some motivational reading or audio involved, meditation is a daily must.
Know that you can switch it up, but I would encourage you to give some dedicated time to something before deciding it isn’t the right thing. For example, if it feels like meditation just is a chore and doesn’t work for me, that just means your normal. Most of us have difficulty immediately learning to quiet the mind chatter. As you develop some skill at it and have moments of blissful quiet it will feel restorative and inviting. Something you look forward to. I love my alone time in the morning and feel a little cheated if others in my house get up early and are meandering around, (I quickly tap and let it go).
Your list of what to include is only limited by your imagination, what may be restorative and inviting to you may not be at all inviting to someone else.
But some practices to consider:
- Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT or Tapping)
- The Sedona Method
- The Work of Byron Katie
- Spend time in nature
- Physical movement like Yoga or Qi Gong
- Read inspirational quotes, stories
- Guided imagery
Look again at your intention, if lowering anxiety and stress is the purpose, meditation, yoga, Qi Gong, or EFT are all great. If it is figuring out what’s next in my life, journaling, meditation, and EFT for clarity might be the perfect way to start. There are so many healing modalities and there are You Tube videos for all of them. So check out a couple and find one that you will stick with, watch videos, read about them, and maybe even get a coach or therapist to work with to get better at using it.
How To Get Started
I am asking you to be a little selfish as you move towards health and healing. The thing I find with many of my clients is that they are very giving people when it comes to others but have a difficult time being compassionate and loving when it comes to their own needs. By making yourself a priority for at least an hour a day you are taking responsibility for yourself and you will be more present for the other people in your life. If the idea of taking an hour out of your day for yourself feels overwhelming maybe you start with 20 minutes. However, I want to tell you that if you can only fit 20 minutes out of your day for yourself you probably need to learn to say NO to others once in a while.
So, how to get started? Decide when you will set aside time for you. For me, first thing in the morning is easiest. I get up most mornings at 6:30 am and come downstairs, feed my pooch, make my coffee and then pull out my journal, laptop, IPod, and headphones. That’s the first thing, commit to a time of day, the more consistent you can be the easier it will be to stick with it long term and that is what we are trying to create, long term sustainable healthy habits.
OK you know when, now what? I would encourage you to start with one activity that you would benefit from and will look forward to doing. Again if you’re at a loss, meditation is a great place to start. There are so many benefits from meditation from lowering anxiety and depression to supporting your immune system, lowering blood pressure. If you have time for one thing, that would be a great one. If the idea of sitting quietly focused on your breathing bores you to your core, start with a guided imagery, You Tube is an amazing resource for guided imagery and tons of other meditations. There is an 8-minute breath meditation that would be a good place to start, I also love Brendon Burchard’s Release Meditation, both are on You Tube.
If you have the full hour, add in some Tapping or Journaling, and possibly 20 minutes of exercise. This again goes back to intention, what is the focus or the goal of your time for you.
You have decided when and what you will do. The goal now is to create a habit. Make a commitment to yourself that you will stick with it for 30 days. At a seminar I attended they mentioned an author (I don’t remember the name) he would try things for 30 days just to see if it was something that fit into his life. When we commit to something for 30 days we really get to experience it and see if it works for us. A good example is getting up 30 minutes earlier. The first few days are rough, the 2nd week is easier, by day 30 we really can see if it is a benefit for us. It may be that we treasure having that 30 minutes of quiet time for our self or we realize that we are going to bed 30 minutes earlier and missing out on family time which is actually more important to us. If we go into it like an experiment then there is no judgment of our self if we decide we don’t want to continue it.
Let’s say you spend your first 30 days journaling daily and tapping as a part of your daily ritual. At the end of the 30 days you might decide that you want to continue tapping every morning for 10 minutes but you don’t really need to journal daily and twice a week would serve you better, you realize that you would rather spend that 20 minutes walking 3 or 4 mornings a week. Your daily practice can be fluid and change as you grow. The important thing is that whatever your doing is helping you be happier, healthier, and more resilient in your life.
Tweaking Your Practice
As you continue with learning to take time for yourself you may need to tweak your daily practice. If you started with 20 minutes a day you may now want to add in another 20 minutes, add in an additional activity, or change up what you are doing. For instance if you have been journaling, meditating, and doing yoga each for 20 minutes a day but now you want to go to a yoga class twice a week and do meditation for 20 minutes before bedtime, that is perfect.
When I first started much of my time was spent journaling and doing healing work, now my intention is more around personal and professional growth, I read and then I visualize for about 15 minutes. I will then listen to or read something inspirational, or motivating for the next 20 or 30 minutes, and then I will usually write in my journal, and if I have time I will do something towards professional growth. It is very different from when I started years ago. I still fit in meditation daily and walk or do some fitness activity but it looks much different from when I started, and you will likely see the same thing happen as you gain benefits from setting aside time for self care.
If you can just start and create the habit, the benefit of this will come back tenfold. You will feel centered and grounded, you will become more skilled at the practice, more self-aware, and more present in your life. You will be giving a gift to your body, mind, and spirit.
Aside from really having some time to reflect and recharge your batteries and maybe heal from some past wounds, as if that is not enough of a reason, you will be sending a statement to yourself, to the people in your life, to the Universe that you matter. You will be treating yourself as if you are important and as if your needs deserve to be met as well as others.
You will also be developing your skills for self healing by getting better at whatever method you picked to practice daily. There is a learning curve with most things, time needed to feel comfortable, time to see the benefit and feel like what you are doing is effective. No matter how many times I heard that it doesn’t matter what words you say with tapping you just need to focus on the feeling and do it, I wanted to do it right, so it took some time to let go of the need to be right and just be comfortable doing it. This is the way with most things. Even the idea of carving time out for yourself may feel uncomfortable but the more you do it and notice the feeling of calm that stays with you throughout the day the more you will realize the gain. You might even have family members encouraging you to take some you time.
Depending on what you add into your daily practice, some benefits you can expect are:
- Improved sleep
- Lower stress and anxiety,
- Better relationships,
- Improve your immune system
- Lower blood pressure
- Less emotional reactivity
- More self awareness of thoughts and emotions
- Overall feeling of well being
Wrapping It Up
Creating time for self care and daily practices is a big part of my work with clients, designed to help you incorporate healthier coping strategies and change the focus on more positive things. Some days there is just not time to do your entire self care hour, fit in what you can and commit to getting back to it the next day. Maybe do a 5 minute mini-meditation, or write in your journal before bedtime, listen to an inspirational CD on the way to work. Get creative.
If you are like most people there will be days you just don’t want to do it. I am going to encourage you to do it anyway. Alternatively use that opportunity to explore where that feeling is coming from. This will help you be more in tune with your emotional state. It might bring up something you have been wanting to avoid, or just the old feelings of guilt for taking time for yourself. Give yourself permission to feel, and then affirm that you want to be healthier and just do it.
Remember this is about doing things differently, creating healthier habits. If you do what you have always done, you will continue to get more of the same. If that was working for you, you wouldn’t be reading this now
Please leave any questions or comments below.