You really want to create some new, healthy habits–but it’s so hard to stick with them. What’s up with that? Those habits could be anything that helps you feel better in your mind and body, including eating your vegetables or cooking at home, or meditating, or exercising, or reading, or journaling, or drawing, or any combination of these or other, similar things.
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I know how fun and rebellious and sometimes, when your schedule gets really tight, even necessary it can be to blow off your healthy habits are, trust me. I call it the “I’m so healthy I can eat anything I want” mentality. You know, you clean up your diet, you feel great, you look great, and then it goes to your head and you think you no longer need all the things you were doing to get you to that spot and you start eating a lot of unhealthy foods ‘because you can.’
This very common phenomenon is so common, and has been around for so long that the yoga sutras, which were written about 2500 years ago, talks about it. The yoga sutras talk about something called kleshas, which translates from Sanskrit as afflictions or obstacles, and backsliding due to a lack of perseverance is one of them. Which, I don’t know about you, but I find comforting to know that humans have been backsliding for thousands and thousands of years! It’s not a question of if it will happen, but when. And therefore, not something that means you’re bad person. Just something that means you’re human.
So why do we stop doing the healthy habits that keep us in a good spot?
Sometimes it’s practical, like you get insanely busy at work or a loved one is sick or you get sick. And sometimes, it’s mental. You might start thinking you don’t need those things any more, as I mentioned. Or maybe you’re feeling tired, burned out, sad, numb, depressed, anxious all of which are very understandable responses to the times we’re living in, and which can make it hard to find the motivation to get out and walk those miles or whatever your healthy habits are.
Deep down, I think of the root cause of backsliding as your ego trying to trick you into backing off the things that help you feel you feel you’re best. Because if you’re not feeling your best, you’re less likely to have the desire to want to change things up, or do important but maybe scary things. The ego, also known as the inner critic, is obsessed with keeping you safe, and has a knee-jerk reaction against change of any kind, even positive change, because it believes the devil you know is way, way better than the devil you don’t. So backsliding can be the result of resistance to lasting beneficial change.
Daily Tiny Assignment
Backsliding is not a reflection of your character, it’s a reflection of your humanity. Therefore, your tiny assignment is to forgive yourself for having gotten off track. I mean, shit happens; it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person if you fall off the meditation wagon!
I find it very helpful to actually write down, “I forgive myself for,” and then writing down whatever naturally pops up. There’s something about seeing something you’ve been beating yourself up about in writing that helps you recognize that you would forgive those same things in another person.
So you could write down, I forgive myself for not getting any exercise these last few weeks, for example. It’s actually very powerful to offer yourself your forgiveness in this way. Something about seeing something written in your own handwriting really helps get your conscious mind and subconscious mind on the same page.
Once you’ve relieved yourself of a little guilt and shame, you’ll have a lot more energy and inclination to get back to those things that help you feel better.
If you forgive yourself, you can exercise or meditate or read for the joy of it, and not because you’re trying to prove yourself either right or wrong that you do or do not suck. Ugh, trying to prove anything is so much work.
You don’t want to do these things out of trying to show that you’re not bad. You want to do them because they help you feel GOOD.
Remember, all you ever have to do to get back on track with the practices that help you feel good is to simply start again. Just keep in mind that you’re NOT starting from scratch. Everything you’ve ever done to take care of yourself still altered your being in a beneficial way, and you can’t erase or negate the cellular memory of that. You just took a little detour, and now you’re back. Your cellular memory will help you regain any fitness you may have lost while you were out there, roaming around, off the path.
Tomorrow’s episode is on a similar, but more dramatic topic, and that is on anything you’ve done or experienced that makes you feel shame, so I hope you’ll come back for that.
What things make you worry you’re a bad person?
Shoot me an email at beabetterpersonpodcast.com or DM me on Instagram @katehanleyauthor, and I’ll do an episode around them if I can. ALSO, I just launched the Am I a Bad Person quiz on katehanley.com, which is a very light-hearted look at those things we do that we may or may not have good reason to feel bad about later. Again, you can find the quiz at katehanley.com.