I used to have a habit of meditating. And once again, I have fallen off the proverbial cushion. And now find myself asking why? I know the research. I know how it great it makes me feel when I do it. But still the cushion sits there. Inviting me. And I close the door and say “tomorrow.”
So how to create a habit that sticks?
Habits are how our brains organize the vast amount of information our world brings to us every day. Charles Duhigg, in his excellent book, The Power of Habit, explains it well. According to Duhigg, every time we develop habits, we create certain “grooves” in our brains. They represent the automated processes of our brains so we can function most efficiently.
Take driving to work every morning, for example. Start the car. Put it in reverse. Back out of the driveway. Shift to drive. Point the car where we want to go. Arrive at work. What happened to that space in between? Perhaps we spoke on the phone. Listened to music or the news. Thought about conversations with our kids or friends or clients. What we didn’t think about was driving to work.
Driving to work became a habit. In my case, so much so that I easily find myself headed off the same exit when I didn’t mean to go into work!
These grooves are the sticky habits. And habits can be ones we like, such as going for a run in the morning. Or ones we wish we did not have, such as chocolate and coffee at 4 pm (mine). Duhigg explains that the grooves don’t go away. It is why we can easily fall back into old habits. But new grooves – new sticky habits – can be built on top of them.
Here’s How to Build Your Groove:
1. They are associated with an emotional reward. So when I go for a run, I know I will get that feeling of accomplishment. My body also feels tremendously healthy. I aim for that feeling, no matter how much I struggle up that hill. When I’m done with the run, I feel good. The habit gets reinforced.
2. Keep going. The more we repeat these activities and associate our feeling of reward with it, the deeper the sticky habit groove in our brains. Even when we fall off the cushion. It is that much easier to get back on.
3. When we fall off, start again. Find our groove.
In creating any new sticky habit, being kind to ourselves throughout the process is key. As is trusting that our brain is also finding its groove.