Old Habits Die Hard, So Kill Them with Kindness

This post is by QSY lead teacher Leslie Stokman. 

Changing my habits has been a life-long struggle.

Do I lack willpower and self-discipline, giving in too easily to procrastination? Is my struggle to blame on the symptoms of ADHD? Or is my difficulty maintaining a routine actually an issue of nervous system dysregulation? The answer might not matter too much in the end. 

If you’ve struggled like me to keep up with the new habits, even the ones you identify with great intention and enthusiasm, this post is for you.

We’re a week into the new year – it’s a loaded time. Whether you’ve been heeding messages that promote wellness-focused New Year’s resolutions, or voices that dismiss them in favour of maxims like “New Year, Same Awesome You,” the topic is definitely on our collective mind for better or worse. I admit that there is nothing magical about the year changing. 2020 is an arbitrary measure according to a calendar that was created in the 16th century by a Pope. That said, the coming of the New Year is one of the only times when our whole society acknowledges one pure moment of transition. And times of transition can be powerful opportunities for personal reflection and transformation.

If you’ve resolved to do something differently this year, enough time has already passed that you might feel like giving up, or feel guilty for “failing” when you skipped an opportunity to make good on that intention. Neither of those are reasons to throw out your resolution, although they might be reasons to adjust it. Let me get one thing clear: everyone fails to keep their new year’s resolution at some point. Maybe you had resolution-like thoughts swim around in your head, only to throw them out preemptively (can’t fail if you don’t try, right?). 

I’m with you on all of those fronts. But know that there is literally no wrong time to begin. And I do make resolutions all the time, not just in the New Year. The only difference is that I usually call them intentions instead of resolutions. I’m also unashamed to admit that I struggle to keep pretty much all of them. But that doesn’t stop me from trying again and again. 

Intentions are an expression of hope and personal power – hope that we actually care enough about ourselves (or each other, or the world) to act like it, and an expression of our power to create a reality we’re proud of. That’s some big talk coming from someone who experiences both short and long lapses in all of the habits that I value, including walking or biking instead of driving, good sleep hygiene, at-home yoga and TRE practices, and for me the hardest one of all: meditation.

Here are my 4 recommendations for approaching resolutions or intentions at this time of year, or anytime.

1. Treat your intentions like you would a meditation.

Giving up on a resolution or intention is like going to a meditation class and then giving up after your mind wanders one time. The thing about meditation is that you literally have to bring your awareness back just as many times as it wanders. That’s what meditation is. It doesn’t matter that one time I day-dreamed about my fake fantasy life as an interior designer for fifteen minutes; it does matter that eventually I came back to my breath. That’s what resolutions are too: doggedly returning to your purpose again and again, no matter how long you’ve been “day-dreaming.” 

 

2. Be kind to yourself when your resolve lapses. 

Patience and persistence are two of my favourite values when it comes to self-talk about habits. World-renowned meditation teacher S.N. Goenka repeats them endlessly in his instructions, encouraging all meditators to practice “patiently and persistently.” Let’s add one more to the list: kindness. Doing things differently than you’ve done them before is hard. Be kind to yourself when the inevitable lapses happen. Be kind to yourself when they last longer than you would have liked. Be kind to yourself if you’re still in a lapse from last year’s resolution (I am really talking to myself on that one).

 

3. Seek out a community of like-minded people to encourage you. 

Sharing your intentions with a friend or a circle of friends might help you solidify your intentions (and help you practice kindness with yourself when you lapse). If you’re reading this and thinking that Queen Street Yoga has a place in any of your new habits, that would be super cool, and we’d love to be there with you for the times you make it happen. Check out our drop-in schedule here or browse our specialty courses here

 

4. Seek out resources that inspire you, and that help you get real with your efforts. 

Here are two of my favourite resources when I need a boost, a reminder, or a tool to help guide my process and efforts:

 

Hoping to see you on the mat or in the comments,

 

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