Have you ever thought to yourself while doing a healthy hobby like journaling or yoga, “Oh man, I really wish I could do this activity more often, it would really help me feel good!” and then you find yourself mysteriously not doing that thing?
Sometimes change is hard, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of imagining that we’re just going to do something healthy automatically when we feel like it. News flash: if you end up doing things just when you feel like it, a habit usually doesn’t form! Relying on the whims and impulses of our emotions and mental states to keep ourselves focused is a strategy that is unfortunately doomed to fail - even for the most conscientious of us. As someone who naturally is less structured than others (thanks brain!) I’ve had to find ways to keep myself organized so I can plan for these natural ebbs and flows, and allow some flexibility when I can’t keep up with my plan. Let me share some of my strategies.
Step 1: Think of some changes you’d like to have in your life. For example, healthy hobbies like dancing, cooking healthy meals or going on regular walks. We need this change to be manageable so pick your favorite. Trying to target more than one habit at the same time will set you up for failure. Let's focus on one healthy change.
Step 2: Assess your why. Why do you want to do this awesome thing? For example, my goal this month is to meditate 20 minutes every morning. I know I want to do this because I know life feels more manageable when I do. In a similar manner, you can write about how doing your chosen activity makes you feel, or how you feel inspired, hopeful or connected with others or your purpose while doing it. Re-read this when you are feeling less motivated in the future.
Step 3: Look at your current schedule. What is your typical day like? What are your limitations? Where is the space for this healthy hobby?
Step 4: Now that you are aware of the space and limitations in your unique life, make a commitment to do this healthy hobby every week. Stay committed, but be realistic.
Step 5: Remember. If you are forgetful like me, write your healthy hobby on a calendar or planner. Or even better, put it in your smartphone as an activity and set two alarms to go off; one 30 minutes prior to the activity and one the day before. It (almost) never fails!
Step 6: Plan one day in advance to do the hobby, at a minimum. Make sure there is space (and time to sleep enough and wake up in time) for the hobby. Allow travel time as well.
Step 7: When you (inevitably) fail to follow through at some point (like everyone does), don’t beat yourself up. Navigate your feelings of disappointment with self-compassion. This can help motivate you to plan for the next time you will engage in the hobby to get back on track.
Melissa Lee Nilles, LMHC is a licensed mental health counselor and expressive arts therapist with a Master's degree from Lesley University’s Mental Health Counseling and Expressive Arts Therapy program. She is deeply passionate about self-exploration through the arts, mindfulness practices and therapy. She seeks to collaborate with her clients using the tools of person-centered therapy, mindfulness, meditation, trauma-informed body-oriented psychotherapy and expressive arts therapy (through music therapy, art therapy, and poetry/writing therapy). Melissa also employs CBT and motivational interviewing to help you transform your life. She prefers a holistic, eclectic and interdisciplinary approach to addressing client concerns.