Change your habits with love and care
In Ayurveda there is an overarching principle that is often paraphrased as “like increases like”. Meaning, what you are doing now, you will tend to keep doing. Surely you have noticed this pattern in your life. Have you ever noticed how eating a bag of cookies one day does not in reality translate into cookie austerity the next day? A beer one night does not lead you to fewer beers the next night? Staying up late night after night, over scheduling, rushing, forgetting to meditate, or exercise, or not planning ahead almost always earn you more of the same.
It is often said that it takes 21 days to turn the boat around. Meaning, 21 days for a new habit to take root. This may or may not be true, but what is true, is that to change a habit we need to address the need that the habit is fulfilling.
Changing the habit of eating to fulfill emotional needs is the perfect example. If we expect to change our habit of over-eating or eating unhealthy but comforting foods then we have to address the need for fullness or comfort in some other constructive way. For change to happen, the original need needs to be taken care of.
This is why changing course toward better harmony with nature (and our own health) takes softness and love, not so much deprivation or self-flagellation. We are most open to change when we soften to feel love: for ourself and others. This is why so many Ayurvedic health practices are about self-care and self-nourishment. And why chilling out is often the best way to change old patterns.
Oxytocin, the “love hormone”, is produced when we are at ease and especially when we feel sweet and connected to ourselves and our loved ones. It has been shown to reduce inflammation and anxiety and to increase the feeling of trust. It has even been shown to inhibit our tolerance of addictive substances such as sugar, alcohol and opiates.
If like increases like, then love increases love. And from this soft, sweet place we are far more likely to establish healthy, fully self serving habits. Consider this the next time you are about to soothe yourself with a bag of cookies or a bottle beer. Instead of denying the need, what habits could you start that will address the underlying need for love, relaxation, fullness, or connection?
If you are ready to establish the kind of self-care that you are really craving, join this year’s Fall Cleanse.