I was talking with a friend the other day and she was lamenting how every time she seems to set a new habit for herself, or tried to begin to find better balance in her life, she either falls back into an old habit after some time or gives herself permission to take a break because of some other circumstance (like it being summer). Sound familiar? It sure did to me! It can really make you feel defeated sometimes. But here’s another way of thinking about this common problem.
You may have heard the old myth (or even given it a test run for yourself) that you can form a new habit in 21 days. If you’ve ever tried it you may also have noticed that it might not have really stuck after that time. While our brains are amazing in their ability to adapt, it may not be that simple.
Our brains also have a negativity bias. This basically means that are brains have evolved to be extra vigilant for negative interactions, thoughts, experiences and situations. They evolved this way because it was a skill that allowed us to not only survive as a species, but to pass on our genes. So we are much more likely to remember the things that we “failed” at, rather than what we actually accomplished. (See the wonderful book Buddha’s Brain for more on this phenomenon.)
So what’s a girl to do?!?
Focus on the good and just start over.
We have to train our minds to notice the good things. How good you feel at the end of a yoga class versus the fact that you didn’t make it to class last week. The habit that you did start and managed to maintain for several weeks before life got crazy and threw you off. If we can recognize what is possible and what we have accomplished it will be much easier to let go of whatever negative thoughts or stories we’ve told ourselves and just start again.
So if you’ve found that the busyness of summer has thrown you off some good habit or way of being, or you’ve simply let it go because it is a time of year to take a break, remember it’s all about balance. Remember that you are capable, you can be successful and just like in a meditation practice, you can just start again.