In Part 1 of How to Find Your Daily Rhythm I introduced the concept of tuning into the rhythm of the day to deepen your health and well-being. In this article I'll introduce the art and science of habit change and creation.
Have you ever tried to create or change a habit and failed? I have, so coming to Ayurveda filled me with self-doubt. Could I really learn to get up before dawn? Would I ever have a regular meditation practice? Might scraping my tongue become as automatic as brushing my teeth? Here's a quick primer for you. Habit creation and change relies on goals and intentions. Like dropping a stone in water and seeing the ripples spread, our intention and well set goals make waves that ripple out into our lives.
Here's an example from my own experience:
Intention: To get up early enough to meditate everyday.
Goal: Get to bed by 10 p.m., wake up before 6 p.m.
Action: get to bed 15 minutes earlier every night for the next 10 days to hit the 10 p.m. target.
Accountability: Keep a chart in the bathroom and give myself a gold star every night I get to bed by 10 p.m. OR 15 minutes earlier. Another gold star for up by 6 a.m. OR up 15 minutes earlier than the morning before.
Well, I really wasn't using gold stars, but I was making note of my bedtimes and arising times, and how I felt. It helped me notice a pattern. The later I went to bed, the harder it was to get up. Now that might seem totally obvious, but I needed to chart it to bring it into focus and get really honest with myself. Once the cause and effect was clear, I was more motivated and accountable. My bedtime began to reliably shift to 9:30–10 p.m. and I was up between 5:30 and 6 a.m. I began to have the time to meditate 10–15 minutes every morning! I felt a sense of accomplishment having reached my goal. My sense of limitation was slowly being replaced by something bigger; my higher self was peeking through the clouds.
Celebration: This is an overlooked key to success! Between the pace of modern life and the common feeling that comes from our small self that says: “I'm not enough”/“I could have done better”, pausing to celebrate a success rarely happens. Take my advice and become a celebrator of your accomplishments, both large and small. Why? Because it's fun AND it will make you more likely to succeed in the future. Celebrate your big self, the part of you that can change. This is where access to true health is found. Biologically, when we celebrate, the brain releases dopamine, a feel good neurotransmitter. This creates a positive reinforcement loop that provides encouragement to repeat a behavior. So find a way to pause and celebrate: call a friend, have a special cup of tea, go for your favorite walk, break out some chocolate—anything that will create that positive loop—so you'll do it again, and again, and again... accessing that limitless part of you becomes easier when you know your big self is there, and how to access it.
Back to my story, the earlier to bed, earlier to rise habit made the space for my meditation practice, which is now regular and gives me the joy and steadiness I desire, everyday... Ayurveda's job is to connect us to our big self, our highest good.
Stay tuned for How To Find Your Daily Rhythm Part 3 where we'll explore staying in rhythm when you work away from home.