Every one of us has a habit or two we’d like to break. Here at The Well Daily, we take a yogic approach.
Each of us has behavior patterns that inform our individual personalities, habits and thought patterns that stem from deep mental impressions. These conditioned ideas and behaviors have a name in Sanskrit: samskaras. While we tend to think of a habit as a bad thing, though not all samskaras are harmful. But if you’ve noticed that a certain habit—like a daily doughnut indulgence or relying on the television for background noise—is keeping you from truly living well, know that each of us has the power to replace a “bad habit” with a positive one.
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali introduces the practice of cultivating a positive thought when a negative thought arises. The technique is called pratipaksha bhavana, and it’s so effective in helping us change our habits because all actions begin as thoughts. Take these steps to change your mind and, consequently, your habits.
Observe: Begin by observing your behavior for one week. Be conscious of when you tend toward your “bad habit” and journal your observations. Don’t judge yourself for following your deeply embedded pattern. Just be with each moment and each experience and simply reflect. Are there certain triggers for your behavior, or does it seem to come from some place deep within? Put words to your thoughts on it.
Transform: After your week of observation, read through your notes and reflect upon what makes up your “bad habit.” Then, crucially, acknowledge that the habit is not a part of what makes you you. Give yourself time and space to reflect upon this truth. When you are ready, determine a replacement habit that will transform your negative tendency into a positive one. For instance, if your habit of vegging out on the couch after dinner every night is keeping you in a rut, choose to energize with a walk or do a yoga flow instead.
Activate: Insert your chosen positive action whenever you tend toward your old negative habit to permanently transform your tendencies. Not only will you be free of the patterns that were holding you back, but you’ll also be a little more mindful overall.
The Well Wisdom: In this work, it is important to embrace simplicity. Take your practice of transforming tendencies one day at a time, one action at a time and one thought at a time. Isolating negative behavior takes mindfulness, the practice of living in the present. With time and patience, we can make real changes to the fabric of our beings.
For more tips on living well, visit The Well Daily, a website and free daily email for all things yoga, meditation, nutrition and wellness. The Well Daily’s simple mission: be well, do well, live well—for yourself and others. Join thousands of others seeking more health and more joy by following The Well Daily on Twitter and Facebook and by subscribing for your daily dose of wellness.