How do you respond when your efforts to follow healthy habits aren’t enough? Positive habits can go by the wayside when your schedule changes or priorities shift. The practice below – The Return – is essential to reestablishing your favorite life-affirming habits. Before you get started, be sure to check any “shoulds” or self-judgment at the door!
No one in the world practices healthy habits perfectly. There are many situations when it’s difficult to maintain positive practices, such as when traveling and your schedule changes or when suffering through difficult times.
Where I live, summer has ended and the fall back-to-school season has begun. I’m reminded of that long-ago grade school assignment “what I did during summer break.” Unfortunately, my report would be filled with unrealized summer plans due to health issues. Without going into too much detail, I’m recovering from a medical procedure I expected to be fairly standard. Unfortunately, it has been more difficult, lengthy, and disruptive than I imagined. As a result, my daily yoga practice, regular high intensity walks, and other long-time practices have been few and far between.
The consequences have been substantial. For instance, I’ve lost physical strength, which means a loss of energy and stamina. Also, with many things to catch up on, I feel a sense of inertia around getting started. On a dark day, I might even blame myself a little bit for being in this situation.
Reestablishing my habits seems daunting. I’ve worked with hundreds of clients who find it similarly challenging to either establish a new desired habit or reestablish an old one. Even when they know it will be good for them, it can still be a challenge.
The Return IS the Practice
Fortunately, The Return practice below will kick-start your process. Often, returning to the practice IS the practice! My clients and I have used this approach many times and we’ve learned some valuable lessons along the way.
- Lesson One – Start Small
In returning to my daily yoga practice, for instance, I carved out 5 minutes daily and scheduled it in my calendar. I know from past experiences that once I start practicing, my practice is likely to take off. After about a week, I worked back up to 20 minutes daily, my intended target.
- Lesson Two – Recognize Small Wins
For instance, I celebrated rather than criticized my first 5-minute session. I also backed off the most difficult poses while my body strengthened gradually rather than “shoulding” on myself.
- Lesson Three – Find A Buddy
Some people are more successful when working with an accountability buddy. If you prefer to fly solo, do what’s best for you!
The most important lesson, though, is to engage your character strengths along the way. Certainly, you can find ways to tap into your signature strengths to energize and motivate you. If you haven’t taken the free survey, take it today and join over 21 million others globally.
The practice below taps into hope, prudence, and perseverance. Whether these are signature for you or not, this approach can help you spring into action. I first learned about it from Dr. Ryan Niemiec, Education Director at the VIA Institute On Character, in a character strengths course I took years ago.
Hope, Prudence, and Perseverance Lead the Way
In a nutshell, hope will help you envision a successful practice, prudence will help you plan it, and perseverance will help you get it done. The descriptions of these three strengths, from Tayyab Rashid and Afroze Anjum’s article 340 Ways to Use VIA Character Strengths, are below.
“Hope is the expectation that good things will happen in the future. Hopeful individuals are confident that their efforts toward future goals will lead to their fruition. This strength leads people to expect the best from themselves and others.”
“Prudence is a practical orientation toward future goals. It entails being careful about one’s choices, not taking undue risks, and keeping long-term goals in mind when making short-term decisions…This strength is not synonymous with stinginess or timidity, but instead involves an intelligent and efficient perspective towards achieving major goals in life.”
“Persistence (perseverance) is the mental strength necessary to continue striving for one’s goals in the face of obstacles and setbacks…Persistent individuals finish what they start, persisting in the quest to achieve their goals in spite of any hardships they encounter along the way. The broader and more ambitious one’s goals are, the more necessary persistence is in order to achieve them.”
Are you ready to give The Return a try?
Start with tapping into hope by envisioning your practice. Take a few minutes to reflect on which practices have suffered recently that you’d like to return to. Tune in to the benefits from when you last practiced this. How will this practice support your mental or physical health right now? Picture how you will think, feel or act differently after returning to the practice. Feel confident about seeing it through. Envision the strategies or resources that helped you feel successful in the past.
Move to your prudence strength and start planning. How much time will you need? When does practicing fit best in your schedule? What accountability or reminders do you need? Notice how you were successful in the past and build on strategies or resources you used.
Now do it and use perseverance to return when needed. Start small. Build successes. When life intervenes, say to yourself “I’m going to return now” rather than berating yourself for failing.
If you find yourself feeling frustrated or returning more often than practicing, repeat the practice. Make sure you’re working on something beneficial, immediate, and essential.
After completing your practice, reflect on the following:
Returning to my practice with a strength-based approach helped me see that ______________________________.
What did you notice? Did your energy or mindset shift from resistant to positive? Did you notice progress? Something else?
May your strengths lead the way as you return to your positive practice.
Wishing you positive mental and physical health,