What it takes to build a habit
Everybody has that one thing they’ve always wanted to do, like learning a new skill, reaching a productivity goal, or ending a bad habit. You’re probably thinking of one right now.
For me, that thing was having a daily yoga practice. Like most Vancouverites, I’ve been to my fair share of yoga classes, and I’ve always liked the way it made me feel. For me, yoga is great for boosting my energy and refreshing my mind.
Despite that positive reinforcement, I’ve never found time to actually do it. Until now.
I decided - in the interest of science (and content creation) - to do yoga every day for two weeks. While I know yoga isn’t everyone’s thing, I hope my experience can help shed some light on the process and value of creating new positive habits.
The best thing about new habits is the beginning. I was enthusiastic, motivated, and ready to burst into my new health goddess/icon lifestyle. Maybe I’d start a blog. Maybe I’d even do a TED Talk!
So, on the morning of my first day, I basically exploded out of bed, ready to jump right in. I had set up my yoga mat and a neat pile of cute workout gear the night before; there was no time to waste. For the rest of the day, I felt energetic and positive.
I am not a morning person. When I started this project, I intended to stick with an early morning (i.e. pre-class, pre-coffee) practice. This seemed like the healthiest version of what I was trying to achieve.
I hit my real roadblock on Day 3, my first yoga day on which I also had to make it to class on time. Ask literally anyone I know and they’ll tell you that I am chronically late. I stayed in bed a little too long and had to confine my yoga practice to a measly 10 minutes.
By Day 5, I realized that the morning thing was not going to work. The extra task on my morning checklist, combined with my inability to manage my time, was stressing me out and all of my positivity from Day 1 had entirely dissipated.
Time for a new plan.
On Day 6, I went in with a new goal: do 40 combined minutes of yoga over the course of the day.
I did a quick round of sun salutations when I woke up and a more complete session when I got home from work. I had some homework to do before heading over to a friend’s place to watch our favourite TV show together, so I kept my afternoon yoga session a little shorter as well, leaving space for about 15 minutes of calming stretches and breathing before bed.
This method seemed to work better, so I kept it up. I especially liked the nighttime yoga; I’ve always had trouble falling asleep and actively trying to calm my mind before going to bed was actually really helpful. Who knew?
Disaster struck on Day 9. My mom was visiting and after an unfortunate chain of events including oversleeping, a dead phone, and a burnt potato, I couldn’t seem to find any time to do my yoga practice. I felt noticeably more stressed out, but I’m not sure if that was the lack of yoga or the chaotic day.
Days 10 and 11 weren’t much easier—disruptions in my daily routine (like out-of-town visitors) made it hard to find time for any of my usual pursuits. I wasn’t just behind on yoga, I was behind on everything. I did manage to sneak in quick nighttime sessions on both days, but they felt rushed and superficial at best.
I ended my journey on a pretty positive note. I had a high school friend come into town on Day 13 (apparently this is a popular time to visit me), so things were a little chaotic again. I managed to get in my whole 40 minutes of practice at 6:30 am before picking her up from the airport (it helped that I also had no socks left and this was the only time I could do my laundry).
I started Day 14 with one of my favourite Yoga With Adriene videos. The practice is called Self Love Yoga; I felt like that was a great sentiment to end this project on.
What I learned
Creating new habits is supposed to be about bettering yourself. I think that people often find themselves giving up on new routines because they slip up once or because their original idea doesn’t quite work the way they expected.
I probably won’t continue doing yoga every single day (40 minutes is a long time), but I will do it more going forward. I especially loved what it did for my sleep —I’ve slept better in the last two weeks than I have in a long time, and all because I took the time to quiet my mind.
So my new habit didn’t exactly go as planned, but it doesn’t matter—I still made time for something important to me. I learned something new about how I use my time and how to take care of my mind before anything else. Perfection is boring anyway!
What positive habits do you want to try? Take it from me: you’ve got nothing to lose!