It’s time to start creating healthy habits
Starting a process of lifestyle change is challenging, especially considering our modern life routines that demand a lot of our vital energy and leave us exhausted. I dare say that many people are trapped in a vicious cycle, but precisely because of this, they need to break these links that do so much harm and compromise people’s longevity.
So, how to start? The first step is to recognize your emotional and physical state and to desire change. This recognition will help you find the motivation you need. For time management coach and founder of Real Life and Time Coaching & Speaking, Elizabeth Grace Saunders the key to helping exhausted people move forward is flexibility, that is, not being hard on themselves. The most effective long-term strategy is to take a gentle, holistic approach. Remembering the fundamentals of taking care of yourself through sleep, nutrition, and exercise lays the foundation for you to move forward.
Saunders recommends fighting exhaustion by not pushing your body harder to overcome it, but rather pushing less. To be in a better mood and thus support the achievement of daily goals, try to regulate your sleep. In this task, it is important to know how many hours of sleep you need to have to recover fully. The expert’s tip is to start slowing down for about 30 or 45 minutes before going to bed. When it’s time to wake up, focus on doing this at the same time.
I agree with her, establishing a sleep routine is a habit that helps the mind and body relax, and helps your brain recognize the difference between day and night and know when it is time to sleep and slow down.
Sleep is an extremely calming activity and helps us clear our bodies of the stresses of the day. Yoga practice is also a resource for improving sleep quality because it activates the parasympathetic reflex, which is responsible for slowing down the heart rate, blood pressure, adrenaline, and blood sugar level.
The consistency of the practice will become a habit that will impact your health and quality of life today and in the future. As you decide on a healthier lifestyle, you will feel better and the habit will form. Maintain consistency to build a new habit.
Our brain has evolved with a negativity bias, meaning that negative thoughts are more easily strengthened in our memory and psychological state than positive ones. According to scientists, this is a feature activated by our survival instinct, after all, bad experiences give us more chances to learn from mistakes, making us avoid risky situations.
Metta McGarvey, an expert in mindfulness and professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, says that our brains can change, physically, as a result of learning. This is called experience-dependent neuroplasticity, meaning that neural connections grow based on what we are learning.
Yoga practice, done consistently, consolidates into a positive habit. Repeating the practice, the same thoughts, feelings, and behaviors increases synaptic connectivity, strengthens neural networks, and creates new neurons through learning. This is how we transform the brain’s negativity bias, replacing it with a positivity bias.
McGarvey proposes brain training using the method of full attention, approaching any situation with your full attention and keeping your attention in the present moment. Full attention is about maintaining awareness of thoughts, feelings, and immediate surroundings; accepting all thoughts and feelings without judging them. According to her, by approaching your work with full attention, you will decrease the amount of energy spent worrying about the past or the future and increase the amount of attention you give to the present and positive experiences. She points out that stress and worry can be so ingrained that you need to practice, practice, and keep practicing the skills and habits necessary to keep your attention in the present. This is nothing more than consistency in your activities.
The researcher recommends five mindfulness exercises that help build positive habits that strengthen the brain, see:
- Several times a day, take a short break from whatever you are doing – step away from the computer, turn off the phone, close the book – and look at something different. Enjoy the feeling of calm for a minute or two.
- Practice looking for small moments of beauty or kindness throughout the day: raindrops tapping on your window, the warmth of the sun on your skin, and a friendly exchange with a stranger. Focusing on the positive will strengthen your ability to shift your attention away from worry.
- Research and comment on the positive qualities and actions of others. This behavior is especially important in exchanges with loved ones. Valuing the good in others helps create a virtuous cycle that builds positive communication.
- Do exercises. Calming meditations, yoga, and tai chi can activate the parasympathetic nervous system and awaken a physically relaxed state. Making any of these practices a habit makes it easier for the body to relax after stressful events.
- Remember that habits can be difficult to form and change takes time. Focusing on the positive means going against your brain’s automatic response systems. Be persistent with your mindfulness practices, but don’t blame yourself if you slip and get stressed. Be gentle with yourself.
Little manual for building a new healthy habit
Decide on a goal that you would like to achieve for your health.
Choose a simple action that will lead you to your goal, that you can perform daily.
Plan when and where you will do the chosen action. Be consistent: choose a time and place that you will meet every day of the week.
Every time you find that time and place, do the action.
This will get easier over time, and in 10 weeks you will find that you are doing it automatically, without even having to think about it.
Congratulations, you have acquired a healthy habit!
Source: British Journal of General Practice
Yoga for building health and longevity
To create new health habits, I recommend keeping your practice consistent. You will succeed if you repeat the action over and over again, always with great gentleness. In the book Engage Your Brain, Joe Dispenza says that to transform health, you need to change some thought patterns, because they create a state of being directly connected to the body.
When you want to acquire a new habit, keep an eye on your thoughts and try to stay conscious to observe especially negative thought processes and change them. For him, a good part of thoughts are ideas that we invent and start to believe, and it is precisely this belief that gives rise to a habit. Thoughts trigger chemical reactions that make up our behavior, in the same way, repetitive and unconscious thoughts generate automatic behavior patterns that end up happening almost naturally. So when you wake up, you always follow the same routine.
It turns out that the patterns are habits that have become neurologically wired into the brain, so you need to stay conscious. According to Dispenza, we should observe these thoughts without responding to them so as not to initiate the chemical and automatic responses that give rise to the habitual behavior. This is how you come to master the thoughts and move forward in creating a new habit. This mechanism of thought observation can be enhanced by the practice of yoga. Besides being a habit for health and stress reduction, the practice helps us build lifestyle changes, getting us through this process with greater ease. An article published by Harvard Medical School has shown that the benefits of yoga practice outweigh the physical aspects and that the psychological ones can be even more incredible.
The author, Julie Corliss, executive editor of the Harvard Heart Letter, argues that heart patients are often told by doctors that they need to eat a rich diet and exercise. Faced with guilt and fear, some people end up initiating a lifestyle change, but give up midway through the journey. In these cases, yoga can help people make more lasting changes by cultivating greater mind-body awareness. According to the article, asanas, breathing, relaxation, and meditation techniques work together to help the practitioner become more in tune with how daily habits impact how he feels. This happens because the practice increases mind-body awareness.
With mind-body awareness, you will easily realize that eating unhealthy foods makes you feel that they are not good for you. Thus, yoga can make it easier for you to give up unhealthy habits, some of which are even used by people to deal with stress, such as eating sweets. Our mind-body system integrally connects us to everything in our lives.
The article ends by provoking reflection on the long-term benefits of establishing mind-body awareness. The example cited is about most people’s preference to treat insomnia with a pill than to commit to an eight-week yoga program. The medicine may help the person sleep, but it will not bring long-term results. Whereas doing yoga will generate a good, restorative night’s sleep that will yield more energy and motivation to exercise and to prepare healthy food. This is the mind-body connection that reaches throughout the yogi’s life.
Body awareness is not thinking about the body and not just feeling it, it is extending the map of the body in the brain. It is a neuroplastic place in which the brain can be the best for the body, and the body feels constantly monitored and guided by a much more efficient brain. In a way, it’s like upgrading hardware and software at the same time and in the same place. You give to the body a better brain and to the brain, a better body.
We are a result of our habits
Many authors talk about pattern recognition. Today, the most modern theory on the subject of “pattern recognition” says that the first skill to be developed is to recognize patterns. That is, to perceive a pattern of behavior, attitude, mental and even emotional posture in ourselves. Not to change, but to recognize. Once you recognize a pattern, you learn to influence it – the second skill. Then, if it is becoming a bad habit, you can, from simple techniques, begin the exercise of transforming that bad habit into a good habit. You recognize it and use it to your advantage. It is not possible to transform a bad habit into a good habit without recognition and acceptance. And finally, the third skill is to start creating new patterns, in this case, good habits of self-care, health, and quality of life.
Don’t allow habits to be created automatically, they can be, but when you act consciously, with your mind fully present, for example, in the act of doing yoga or eating better, the development of the habit takes on a new therapeutic dimension in your life. Then you start using this combination of patterns, habits, and positive reinforcement in an efficient way.
What everybody wants is not to simply live longer, but to live better. When you learn how to live better on a daily basis, you naturally build a new life based on the expansion of quality of life, diversity, and positive stimuli.
We human beings are creatures guided by habits. We go to sleep and wake up at the same time, we have our personal hygiene rituals, and we almost always follow the same path. However, not all our habits are healthy, and changing them is not so simple. This is precisely because our routines happen in automatic mode. As we saw above, our brain acts to save energy and does not recognize when a habit is good or bad, only that this action needs to happen. We always follow our default behavior and life goes on, and before we know it, our health is compromised, and we enter old age with a weakened body. It is very important that you decide to change your lifestyle and have healthy habits.
The human brain is always inclined to experience evolution. For our race, this evolution is closely linked to adaptation, making room for the body to gain mobility and prevent aging poorly. Since yoga is an activity that stimulates the relationship between mind and body, it acts positively on brain structure and function.
Invest time and disposition to create new habits and invest in health. By choosing to practice yoga you will certainly reach the age of 80 with a better body, greater mobility, and quality of life. Start today to plan your life and the way you want to reach 80/90 years old.
With the Kaiut Yoga Method, we help our students to build a better body future, after all, aging is a natural and irreversible process for human beings. Practicing yoga is an alternative to reduce the pain, suffering, and physical limitations of this journey that is life.
I hope you take advantage of the tips above and start, with new healthy habits, exercising self-care to rescue your ancestral nature. You don’t need to have unnecessary losses—on the contrary, you can have a better life today and in the future by establishing habits that lead you to a more functional body and the realization of your full potential.
Secret of longevity is through the acquisition of healthy habits. USP Journal, 2017. Available at: https://jornal.usp.br/atualidades/segredo-da-longevidade-passa-pela-aquisicao-de-habitos-saudaveis/ . Accessed 11/28/2022.
Li, Yanping et al. Impact of Healthy Lifestyle Factors on Life Expectancies in the US Population. Circulation American Heart Association, April, 2018. Available at: https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.032047 . Accessed 11/29/2022
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Study identifies 7 habits that reduce the risk of dementia by up to 43%. Portal IG, 2022. Available at: https://saude.ig.com.br/2022-07-18/estudo-identifica-7-habitos- que-reduzem-o-risco-de-demencia-em-at-at-43-.html. Accessed 12/06/2022.
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Bianca P. Acevedo, Robert Marhenke, Kenneth S. Kosik, Sheerin Zarinafsar, Tyler Santander. Yoga improves older adults’ Affective functioning and resting-state brain connectivity: Evidence from a pilot study. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2667032121000160. Accessed 12/14/2022
The Biology of Positive Habits. Harvard Graduate School of Education, 2016. Available at: https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/16/03/biology-positive-habits. Accessed 12/06/2022.
Dispenza, Joe. Evolve Your Brain: The Science of Changing Your Mind. Florida: HCI, 2007.
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