Building Good Habits


What is the most effective method to form a habit? How can you overcome the resistance of bad habits while forming good ones that won't hold you back?

—Devika, India


Dear Devika,

A habit is a mental mechanism which enables us to act automatically leaving our conscious mind free for other duties. A habit is formed by the concentrated, persistent repetition of an action or thought. The speed with which we form a new habit depends on the quality and intensity of our concentration. If our efforts are unfocussed, scatter-brained or if our effort is only half-hearted, not fully committed, our habit formation will be weak, will take much time, and may not form at all.  A habit can be established immediately with concentrated, whole-hearted focus and no competing desires.  Think how quickly a child learns a new skill he REALLY wants to learn such as riding a bike.

Habits, good and bad, are stored in our subconscious which is the repository of all of our past history. Negative mental habits lodged in our subconscious are the primary source of resistance to the formation of good habits. To cast out negative habits and replace them with soul-affirming positive ones we need to apply courage, confidence, and persistence.

If you truly want to establish a good habit and/or replace a bad habit, your positive attitude is essential. Yogananda said that a saint is a sinner who never gave up. Should your new habit not be fully established say, ‘I have not yet succeeded.’  Never succumb to discouragement. Swami Kriyananda, our founder and a direct disciple of Yogananda, shared an early lesson he had with this principle. As a young man, he had a smoking habit and decided he wanted to stop – too expensive! He would give away cigarettes to his friends, stopping smoking for a day or so and then start again, usually at a time of day he was used to having a cigarette.  He never became discouraged and held the attitude of ‘I have not yet succeeded.’ One day he put down the cigarettes and never picked them up again. His friends teased him about his past failures but he did not allow them to discourage him. The habit was finished! Each time we overcome a bad habit and establish a good habit our will power grows stronger.

In addition to a positive attitude add positive affirmations as a powerful tool for reprogramming the subconscious. Affirmations are repetitive thoughts. Affirmations, positive and negative, are going on all of the time in our subconscious. Take charge of your affirmations and make them positive and full of light! Affirmations done in this way are not to convince us of what we aren’t but to align us with our true nature; in our souls we are perfect. Create an affirmation that strengthens the good quality you are seeking. For example, instead of ‘I am sick and want to get well’, (the subconscious will hear ‘sick’), say ‘My body temple is filled with healing light’ or ‘I am well for God is within me.’ Word your affirmation simply and positively in present tense. Embrace the affirmation joyously, with a sense of hope that it will really work. Don’t think of it as battering your subconscious into submission but of getting it interested in this new approach. Repeat your affirmation a number of times during the day including upon awakening and just before sleep, which are times when the subconscious is especially available. Repeat the affirmation aloud, more softly, in a whisper and then silently concentrating at the point between the eyebrows, the seat of superconscious soul awareness.

I encourage you to follow up on your desire to use good habits to support your growth and to break habits that get in the way. If you would like to learn more, an excellent resource is Affirmations for Self-Healing. This book is available in India at this link.

Many Blessings,
Nayaswami Mukti