How to instil positive habits

Our day-to-day lives are shaped by our habits. Although we may feel as though we’re on autopilot through much of our regular routines, even the most seemingly insignificant of rituals can have an impact on our wellbeing. 

This forms a key aspect of our retreat experience and a founding pillar of our philosophy at Eden: Respect the Ritual. Each day, we implement a number of rituals and sew the seeds for positive new habits that we encourage our guests to wholeheartedly participate in. This gives them the opportunity to reflect upon which of these best suit them and how they can carry them beyond the gates of Eden and into their everyday lives.

Regardless of whether you have visited us, we all have the power to start changing our habits for the better. In this article, we explain the importance of habits, how they are formed, and five steps to instilling good habits with ease.

Why habits are important

Our mind relies on habits as learned pathways that make room for our brain to focus on making the decisions in the day that fall outside of the norm. In fact, over 40% of what you do in a day is the result of habits. These can just as easily form the foundation for our triumphs as they can our downfalls.

Being mindful of our habits and bringing self-awareness to our everyday rituals can be a powerful way of re-evaluating your current patterns and creating new ones that lead to a healthier lifestyle.

Understanding the foundations of our habits

When we start to dig deeper and understand the core of our behavioural patterns, it can make it easier to yield control over them. There are three components to our habits:

  1. The cue
  2. The routine
  3. The reward

The cue is what triggers your habit. For example, this could be a time, place, person or emotional state. 

The routine is whatever action that stems from the cue. 

The reward is the benefit that you reap from performing the routine.

For example, in the morning after you wake up (cue), you spend the first 10 minutes of your day stretching (routine), which leaves you feeling energised and mentally prepared to take on the day (reward).

On the other hand, a negative habit may derive from feeling stressed (cue), where you may respond by emotionally eating highly processed foods (routine), which provides a hit of dopamine that temporarily distracts you from the discomfort that you were previously experiencing (reward).

By breaking down this process, you can regain some of the power from these automatic responses and further reinforce your positive habits or adjust your potentially problematic ones.

Five steps to starting good habits

Once you’ve identified patterns you wish to change, below are some of our suggestions to making this process easier.

  1. Limit your options 

When we have too many options before us, decisions can be made more difficult than necessary and can detract from the true intentions of the task at hand. Giving yourself a select few options can help remove this unnecessary obstacle and makes implementing new healthy rituals much easier. For example, rather than selecting from an entire book of healthy recipes, select five to choose from. Not only will this narrow down the process and save you time, but it will also help keep you on track with your new habit rather than becoming frustrated and falling into old ways instead.

  1. Set conditions aligned to your goals

As we emphasise throughout every aspect of our retreat, balance is the key to long-lasting wellness. Therefore, rather than completely denying yourself what gives you the rewards that you seek, simply use these as incentives for pursuing healthier routines. For instance, you may want to break the habit of reaching for chocolate when your sugar cravings start kicking in. Instead of swearing to steer clear of chocolate for good, substitute this sugary snack for perhaps a bowl of yoghurt with raspberries and grated dark chocolate. At the end of the day, you can also reward yourself with a few squares of your favourite chocolate after succeeding in your endeavour to incorporate healthier foods into your diet. Everything in moderation!

  1. Take small steps

Setting your goals and intentions can form the basis of whether you succeed or not before you’ve even begun. Rather than setting drastic changes for yourself, start with something small and achievable that will empower you to keep going. The more you succeed, the more motivated you will naturally become!

  1. Look to your friends and family for support

Falling into old habits is an easy and tempting solution when you’re feeling stuck or unmotivated. If you’re the only person who knows when you slip up, it becomes easier and easier to let these slide and procrastination to set in – forever depending on ‘tomorrow’ for change. Announcing your goals and intentions to your friends and family means that you have people to hold you accountable, to answer to when you don’t follow through and to encourage you when you’re in need of support.

  1. Be patient

Allow yourself to make mistakes. This doesn’t take away from your ability to be disciplined or to succeed but is simply part and parcel of being human. When things don’t go to plan, simply try to accept this without attaching emotion to it and move forward.

With anything in life, the beginning is the most significant obstacle to overcome. Once you start re-evaluating areas of your life where you may have fallen into unhelpful patterns of behaviour and begin shifting your routine to reap the same reward, you will notice the difference in no time. With consistency and effort, new habits will form that become second nature, guiding you towards the wellness benefits of the pillar of our philosophy, Respect the Ritual, from home.