Spiritual Insights on Transforming Unhealthy Habits

Liesel Teversham

Liesel helps HSP introverts to embrace their sensitivity as a superpower, and overcome obstacles so they can thrive. She also works with clients to solve their health issues, and has authored 2 books. More here.

Published on 2024/05/29

About : Change | Goals | Self-Care

“Habit allows us to go from ‘before’ to ‘after,’ to make life easier and better.
Habit is notorious — and rightly so — for its ability to direct even against our will;
but by mindfully shaping our habits, we can harness the power of mindlessness
as a sweeping force for serenity, energy, and growth.”

– Gretchen Rubin –

Changing Habits

Have you ever wanted to change a habit you know is not good for you, but heck, it proved to be awfully hard? Me too.

It might be something that affects your health… like eating too much sugar or cake (a big temptation for me), or sitting in front of the TV too much, or not going to bed early enough to get a good night’s sleep.

I recently had the opportunity to reflect on a habit I’d like to change, and bring my spiritual reflections to it. (Thank you George!)

This time of reflection was so deeply meaningful to me that I turned it into an article. Even though I’m feeling a tad vulnerable sharing, I trust something here might be helpful to you.

In this spiritual reflection exercise, we started off with a prompt and journaled about it for 20 minutes. This question might be helpful to you if you want to journal about your own habit. As you read, you might want to journal your own for yourself. There are more helpful questions right at the end.

Journaling Prompt:

What habit are you trying to let go of — or develop — and how does it connect to your spiritual/personal growth?

The habit I intend to let go of is reading and scrolling mindlessly, and generally being too dependent on my phone.

Here’s what happens when I do that:

  • I feel disappointed in myself
  • I feel guilty for wasting my own precious time
  • I’m annoyed and resentful because then I “don’t have time” to do the things I really care about.
  • I’m not living my values
  • I feel ashamed that I can’t stop a behaviour that I know isn’t contributing to my personal and spiritual growth.
  • I’m sad that I’m wasting the precious days on my life on something that won’t give me much benefit at the end of my life
  • I feel sad that I have so many unfinished projects with much more meaning than a few news or FB articles and memes

I also realise I can’t just let go of that habit without having something meaningful in its place. Nature doesn’t like a vacuum. If I don’t replace it with something specific, the habit will naturally just creep back in.

So — at the same time I’d love to cultivate the habit of doing something more meaningful in the time that would now be available to me.

More meaningful activities could be:

  • Reading one of my multiple meaningful personal growth books
  • Making progress with my embroidery project
  • Starting a new crochet project
  • Listening to one lesson from a course I’ve not completed
  • Reflecting and journaling on how I’m doing with this habit-intention

The benefits for me will be:

  • Less drain on my energy physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
  • I’ll feel more energised on all those levels (yes, I’ve added the ‘energy’ aspect twice because they are subtly different for me)
  • I’ll make progress on projects I’ve been putting off.
  • I’ll feel more peaceful, fulfilled, and satisfied when I spend my time with meaningful activities.
  • I will use my Play Personalities (Creator, Explorer) when I am busy with a hobby or book. The ‘fun’ aspect of using my Play Personalities will in a holistic way, help my body to heal and recover from health conditions. More energy will be available to the systems of my being that can contribute to healing.
  • I’ll use my strengths of Developer, Learner, Harmony, Achiever when I actually finish a project of book, instead of having all those unfinished ones hanging on my shoulders like a monkey.
  • I’ll starting building trust in my ability to do what I said I would.
  • I’ll build my determination, perseverance and consistency muscles.
  • I’ll feel in alignment and in integrity — in all the layers of my being: thinking, feeling, and behaving.

Here’s what I can acknowledge, let go of or decide:

Change is not easy, not for me nor for anyone else. And — the behaviour of phone scrolling actually does meet certain needs. I need to be aware of those needs, so I can figure out different ways of meeting them. An unmet need will definitely pop up for attention in other ways!

Some needs that ARE met during the scrolling and reading:

  • Escape from more difficult things that take effort and energy
  • Not having to think deeply
  • Slowing down
  • Relaxation, fun and entertainment (such good jokes on FB!)
  • Connection with people (I’ve built up many FB friends over many years and they are precious to me)

This new habit-intention might take some effort, making mistakes, failing, stubbing my toe, starting again, over and over. I might need to grow in my ability to love myself anyway, despite things like “Oh no, I did it again”.

It would be like a meditation practice: every time the mind wanders, just bring it back. No judgment. Over and over. That’s what practice is.

So the mental attitude I will adopt right from the start:

I don’t have to be perfect at this straight away. I’m allowed to just do my best. And when I notice I’m scrolling out of habit, I can just give myself a hug or take a deep belly breath, and pick up the book nearest to me and start reading right there and then. With no judgment, and only compassion for how hard it is to break a habit that clearly gives me a dopamine hit every time.

I might also stumble in the ‘mental attitude’ department. I might knock and judge myself before I catch it. And I’ll let that be okay, too. That will be part of the learning journey.

A brief Summary:

My intention is to be gentle, compassionate and kind with myself as I make the commitment to spend my precious hours on meaningful activities instead of being dependent on my phone for entertainment and mindless escape.

Some questions for you to ponder if you want to journal about your own habit:

  • Use a prompt to get you started (the prompt above was very helpful for me)
  • How / what do you feel or experience when you engage in the unhelpful habit?
  • What needs are being met by that habit?
  • What helpful habit would you like to develop instead?
  • How / what would you feel or experience if you were engaging in the new helpful habit?
  • What can you acknowledge, let go of or decide about change?
  • What mental attitude do you want to adopt right from the start?

I spent my first day much more aware of my phone use, and have enjoyed reading a few pages of the current book I’m reading, instead of being mindless (losing my mind!) on my phone.

Invitation for you:

What habit are you struggling with, how has it impacted you, and what would you like to engage in instead?

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