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  • Writer's pictureAnnette Nilsson

Habits, Routines and Rituals

Same? No, there is one important difference.

Usually, when we talk about habits, we refer to habits which are not good, unhealthy or unhelpful. Good habits are preferably called routines, as for example a tooth brushing routine, or a routine in physical workout, etc.


Habits in general are automated behaviours, things we do unconsciously. This unconscious automation of doing things saves brain capacity, we are not aware of it, we just do it. So far so good when it comes to good habits, but not so good when we talk about unhealthy habits - let's call them unhealthy patterns.


A well-know example is stress-related eating. We just put food into our mouth without any awareness, and when this is a regular and automated behaviour, we put our health at risk. We do not savour the food, we do not chew long enough, we actually do not enjoy, we just satisfy the need to calm down our nervous system.


This might work well, and is absolutely normal, and if do it once in a while, no harm will be done. But if this is a regular, automated response to stress, it might be time to do something about it.


So, the difference between habits, routines, and rituals is A W A R E N E S S


The first step towards changing patterns is to identify them, that is to become aware that we have them. Below, I listed the other essential ingredients to overwrite old unhelpful patterns.


Awareness is key to any change you want to make, and it is your best ally in breaking those patterns. Mindmapping, that is writing down situations in which you are about to act upon your old pattern is the first and most important step.


Time is another important ally, you need to allow yourself time to break that pattern as it also did not form over night. To establish new neural pathways in your brain, that is overwriting old patterns with new one, more healthy and helpful behaviour takes at least three months


Discipline is necessary, there is not other way to say it. Thus you need to be honest about your determination to change, is the change you want to bring about a wish, or do you want it?


Patience and self-love. You need to be patient, and you need to be forgivin to yourself, as there might be moments when the old pattern re-emerges, and you are just too stressed to be aware. That is fine, you are human, and it can happen. Accept, and carry on, you will get there over time, and with help!


An important way to cultivate awareness are...

Rituals. They are actions which we carry out with awareness. They resemble habits as ideally, we do them regularly, but the main difference is that we will take a conscious decision to perform that one ritual. Meditation is a well-known example, especially in the beginning, it itakes an active and aware choice to sit down on that pillow or chair, and give yourself that time. And you will notice, especially in times when you would need it most, your old pattern might tell you: no time for that now.... Again, patience and discipline are your best friends in making time for rituals, and for giving yourself that one moment of full awareness, of cherishing that you made the decision to change, and to take better care of yourself!

Support. Last but not least, you do not have to do it all by yourself, why would you?


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