Here's How You Start
Dr. Henry Lindlahr, the father of American naturopathic medicine, asserted that there are 4 root causes of disease:
Lack of self control
Granted this was in the 1920s, and modern life probably requires a few additions to that list. Regardless, these have stood the test of time. There’s no pill to cure any of these root causes, but we can get at them with good old fashioned education and by changing the way we behave. The way feed ourselves and move our bodies, they way we think, the way we treat ourselves and others, it’s these normal every day actions that sneak up and change our entire lives.
It can be deflating to think about all the ways we harm ourselves with our behaviors, and overwhelming to think of all the healthy behaviors we “should” be doing. But we’ve all got to start somewhere.
Below are my favorite habit I built and my favorite habit I broke. In hopes that it might help you, I’ll tell you how I started, what the change looked like, and how I maintain these behaviors now.
I’m so grateful for this habit. I give my meditation practice like 80% of the credit for my success and happiness today. Back when I started I was eager to get the benefits of meditation, but was not excited about the sitting with my thoughts part of it. Who would do that to themselves?! I was attempting to quit smoking for the billionth time, and I was also living in a pretty stressful situation so my mind felt like a pinball machine. I knew I needed something if cigarettes weren’t an option. I started with Headspace, a cute and ultimately effective app that has a free 10 day trial that is a really nice intro to meditation. I did the 10 days and didn’t smoke one cigarette. I felt like I freakin champion! And then I promptly stopped meditating and started smoking again. It took many months to get a regular habit going, but as soon as I figured out how to afford a Headspace subscription I was on a track. I might have come to the habit quicker had I known about Insight Timer, a free meditation app. After about a month of regular meditation I was happier, calmer, more present. The benefits were evident in my life and I was sold.
Now I meditate almost every day, and several of those days I sit for an hour. One of the best hacks that helps me maintain my practice is my “self-care” block of 6am - 9am. Game. Changer. Committing to the habit of carving out a chunk of time for self-care makes the self-care part so much more likely to happen! Sometimes the most obvious things are the most evasive.
I type with great relief that I will never be a smoker again. Cigarettes used to hold me hostage; they told me where to go, when to go, and who to go with. It breaks my heart to remember all the lovely moments and conversations I dipped out of because I preferred to have a cigarette. It is such a gift to have freed myself from that harmful habit. Freed is really the precise word there, I set myself free. Full disclosure: I still have an occasional cigarette, and an occasional cigarette sometimes has me! I suppose my cigarette saga has more to teach me, but the hard part is behind me. As I mentioned earlier I tried to quit about a billion times. Each time I failed to quit I learned a little something, chipped away at my addiction little by little. The time I quit with Alan Carr’s Easy Way to Quit Smoking was probably my best failure, that book really shifted my perspective. Replacement activities like eating tootsie pops and knitting played useful supporting roles. For my grand finale quit, I radically changed my mindset. I ditched the forceful approach of sheer will power and adopted a softer attitude to quitting- one of diligent self love. I learned how to comfort and soothe myself in the way that I thought cigarettes did. I practiced forgiving myself when I inevitably slipped up, trusting myself that I could do it. I loved myself every step of the way.
“Love the behavior into existence”
- Dr. Charley Cropley
I maintain this habit by continuing to practice the skill of self love in my daily life, that certainly deserves most of the credit. But I do have one maintenance hack that I really enjoy. I have a weekly auto-withdrawal from my bank account equal to what I used to spend on cigarettes. Every couple months I buy myself something fun that I absolutely love. Whenever I use or wear it, I know that it is directly because I quit smoking cigarettes and that feels great.
The most important thing is to keep going.