Catch a Healthy Habit

Do you want to give up a bad habit or addiction?

Then find an impulse to follow.  Watch your thoughts, feelings, wishes, impulses, compulsions, fantasies, and so forth, for one that’s headed in the right direction.  Then get behind it.  Listen to it.  Expand it.  Allow it.  Respond to it.  Make that one real, and let it drown out the others.

For example, a few years back I noticed that I’d given up my healthy habit of alternating coffee and green tea with breakfast every morning, and was feeling really addicted to having coffee every day.  The thought of switching to tea every other day made my inner control-freak clamp down and I found myself thinking “no way”!  “forget it!”,  “get yourself another sucker!”.  Stuff like that.

So I backed off and decided to just think about it and watch for awhile.  I got curious about why this felt so intense and what I could do.  So I guess I was kind of watching myself around coffee when, a few days later, on coming to the kitchen one morning, I found myself wishing I didn’t have to take the time to make coffee.  Part of me said – “you don’t!” and I realized it would be easier to make tea – just boil some water.  But still, I felt I couldn’t give up my coffee just yet, so I went ahead and made it.  But this experience had given me an idea, and the next time I had that lazy impulse “let’s not make coffee”, I was ready to follow it.

Doing that – following the new impulse – just slightly loosened the hold the coffee had on me.  It allowed me to remember why I like my jasmine green tea, and how tonic it feels in my system.  The next time was easier and I found that I gradually got comfortable with the alternating schedule, like working at a knot to open it up.

Since that time, I’ve found it helpful to give up caffeine altogether, and the process of quitting was similar to the one described above.  I went gradually until Christmas holidays opened up an opportunity to give up caffeine at a time when I didn’t mind if it disrupted my patterns for a few days.

I took a similar approach when I was out walking one day and contemplating what to have for dinner.  I didn’t feel like cooking a meal, but I remembered I had some chicken broth in the freezer and soup sounded easy enough.  Then I remembered that ayurvedic philosophy recommends having a light supper like soup, so I decided to follow the healthy impulse.

So what I’m doing is enlisting feelings and impulses that come up to turn them in a healthful direction.  Waiting for the bus headed where I want to go, then catching it.  Rather than trying to get there through willpower and discipline and denial.

I like my bus better!