There are certain self-care practices that, when I’m doing them daily, make me feel grounded and stable. But sometimes, even though they’re so good for me, I find myself stopping them completely and struggling to start again.
One of them is meditation. (I recently wrote about how meditation makes me anxious.) Another is yoga. Others are daily journaling, intentions/affirmations, listening to music, or simply giving myself time to be bored.
But lately, I’ve been exploring why I stop doing some of these things—and after digging deeper, I’ve started them up again and am really benefiting from it.
So in this article, I’m covering why I think many of us struggle with this and how to stick to healthy habits the right way. First, let’s look at some possible culprits.
Why We Avoid Things that Are Good for Us
The main reason I struggle with consistently doing things that benefit me is because I feel a strong resistance to doing them.
To have more peace in my life, i’ve let go of many things—including dieting and perfectionism—so sometimes it’s hard to recognize when pushing myself beyond comfort a little is actually good.
For example, anything that requires slowing down is hard for me. (My brain’s default setting is fast and anxious.) So is anything that forces me to confront my doubts or worries or fears.
But here’s the kicker…
… the things that do slow me down are usually what that I truly need the most.
This seems to be the case for most of us.
Whether it’s eating more nutritious foods, wanting to move your body more, needing time to meditate—or simple taking a break from the constant flow of life—you might really struggle with how to stick to healthy habits—or execute them.Why We Resist Things that Are Good for Us Click To Tweet
Even if you know these things can make you feel better, there’s a resistance to them.
And I think there are several common reasons for this:
Change is Hard
Life is busy, and it’s hard to add something new (or take something away) from your routine.
I get really frustrated by diet or exercise gurus giving us the “no excuse” pep talk about eating perfectly or never missing a workout. Because sticking to healthy habits don’t happen in a vacuum.
Life continues no matter what we do, and making a change on top of that can be hard. We need to weigh and examine priorities in a non-judgmental way.
I think acknowledging this, rather than beating ourselves up for not doing something that’s so “easy”—is healthy and a good first step in doing more good thing for ourselves.
Change is Intimidating
Starting something new can feel like a lot. Even though five minutes of meditation or 30 minutes cooking a wholesome meal is a tiny chunk of a 24-hour day… the act itself can feel heavy and hard to get started with.
Change can lead to overthinking or perfectionistic thinking, which makes it hard to simply begin. It’s also about pursuing the unknown, drifting from what’s normal and familiar. And that’s uncomfortable.
Fear of Failure is Real
What if you start and it doesn’t help? What if it’s a waste of time? What if you do it wrong? What if you start and don’t keep it up, and you’re left worse off than before?
Spoiler: I think it’s always good to at least try. Then you can figure what works, what doesn’t, and tailor healthy habits to your unique life situation.
Self-Care Can Be Uncomfortable
Making extra time for acts that benefit you can feel strange. Most of us are more comfy spending time for other people and aren’t quite sure how to handle time for ourselves.
In the case of mindfulness practices, it can bring up emotions you might’ve been avoiding.
I know that when I’m feeling anxious and all up in my head (um, hello, every day), slowing down to breathe helps me notice my thoughts and re-evaluate them.
…. But I often don’t want to notice those thoughts. I want to keep moving at a million miles an hour so I don’t have to feel too intensely.
So, you might fear what will come up if you start spending more time on/with yourself.
How to Stick to Healthy Habits (and Examine if They’re Truly Good for You)
With the above barriers in mind, here are some tips I’ve found effective for breaking through resistance to do those things that will benefit you.
1. Show Yourself Compassion—Always
Yes, I’m starting with this. Because I don’t want this article to encourage you to beat yourself up. If you’re anything at all like me, you’ve done enough of that for a lifetime.
Breaking through resistance does not mean pounding yourself into the ground until you finally breakdown and do the thing.
That’s the opposite of what we want to do here. That’ll just lead to frustration and a cycle of feeling bad about yourself in the long-run.
Example: I keep putting off my mindfulness practice because I feel like I can never stop for a few minutes and make the time. And all that’s running through my head sounds something like….
you have to do your mindfulness practice but you’re already behind on work and you don’t have the extra time but you NEED to meditate because it’s good for you and what is wrong with you why can’t you get your life together and make time for these things you should have started earlier and now it’s too late anyway this is ridiculous
… and on and on.
So yeah, beating myself up doesn’t work. I’ve already tried that. It just makes me feel worse. I need to dig deeper, with kindness. And I’m willing to bet you do too 🙂
Instead, we want to explore our resistance from a place of compassion and self-kindness and curiosity.
So be gentle with yourself as you work through this stuff.
And with that in mind…How to Stop Resisting What's Good for You Click To Tweet
2. Examine How You Think About the Thing
There’s always more to the story. Take just a moment, right now, and think about these questions (write down your answers if you want, or just answer them outloud or in your head):
- Why do I want to start doing this healthy habit regularly? What will it accomplish for me?
- What scares me about/gets in the way of me doing this thing?
- What will happen if I don’t do this?
- What will happen if I do?
- How can I make this practice less intimidating so it’s doable for me (perhaps starting smaller)?
Other good questions:
- Do I feel I deserve the time I need to spend on this? Why or why not?
- Can I approach this with a flexible mindset, being open to challenges during the process?
It’s easier to say that something is hard, but far more powerful to examine why it’s hard with an open mind and self-kindness.
Understanding that why without judgment can help us pinpoint why we’re struggling and how to move forward so it’s less overwhelming.
(For example, I want to meditate daily because it helps me slow down and get more comfortable with my anxious thoughts, which ultimately reduces my anxiety and stress.
What scares me about doing it consistently is the discomfort and intense feelings that often come up—plus my fear of “wasting time” on it.
But I know if I don’t meditate, my anxiety tends to increase and I get out of the habit of making time to “stop and smell the roses,” as life moves on by. When I do meditate, I stay more connected with myself and remember what’s most important in my life.)
3. Let Yourself Feel the Feelings
In her book The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown talks about how we use harmful behaviors to numb and take the edge off of our feelings. She says:
“When I interviewed the participants whom I describe as living a Wholehearted life . . . they consistently talked about trying to feel the feelings, staying mindful about numbing behaviors, and trying to lean into the discomfort of hard emotions.”
I know I resist meditation, yoga, and journaling because they make me slow down and connect with myself on a deeper level. They force me to feel my emotions deeper—and sometimes those emotions are really intense.
It’s common to resist many things that are good for us, especially if they make us more mindful. So what would happen if you vowed to brave those feelings instead of avoiding them?
I’ve found the more I allow myself to feel what’s really going on in my mind and body, the easier it gets to lean into the discomfort and come out the other side less anxious, less stressed, and more at peace.
Maybe try it and see if you notice the same.
4. Focus on Deeper Vs Shallow Outcomes
When I was struggling with binge eating, all my healthy eating choices came from a place of wanting to look skinny and fit. It wasn’t until I shifted my focus to words like healthy, balanced, happy, and intuitive that I could truly find health and peace with food and my body.
The point here is that the motivation behind your actions matter. When the goals are deeper, they’re more likely to stick and be something that melds with your life and happiness.
Think about why you want to do the thing you’re resisting. What truly motivates it? Is it meaningful enough to stick with you?
5. Give Yourself Permission
Our culture puts working long hours and not prioritizing self-care on a pedestal. And when you’re working a lot without time for stress-relief, it can feel like you definitely don’t have time for self-care practices.
But this is not healthy for mental or physical health, and we all deserve better.
You deserve to give yourself permission to put you first and do something simply because it will fulfill your personal life more.
What would it look like if you gave yourself unconditional permission to do yoga or sit doing nothing or cook a nutritious meal just because it’s good for your physical body and mental health?
6. Notice How You Think About Yourself
We’re often quite unaware of our self-talk, but it has a great impact on our thoughts and actions. Whenever we resist something, there’s a dialogue going on in our heads—and it’s usually pretty harsh.
I gave an example of a common thought process for me in #1. It can spiral into some pretty mean stuff about my self-worth.
But here’s the problem: Being hard on yourself when you’re already struggling to do something is not productive.
Work to recognize thoughts like “I’m lazy” or “I’m hopeless” and replace them with “I’m doing the best I can in the moment” or “I’m slowly taking steps towards what I want.”
7. Remember Other People Feel the Same—and Talk to Them
I often catch myself thinking, “everyone else can do this easily—what’s wrong with me? This shouldn’t be so hard!”
But that’s rarely, if ever, the case. But if you feel like you’re the only person struggling with how to stick to healthy habit—and you’re not overjoyed to meditate or journal in the morning—you might feel even worse about yourself when you resist it.
It’s scary to admit to others when you’re having trouble with something in life—which is unfortunate because the majority of us feel so similarly about things.
And there’s no shame in needing help or grappling with self-care. Remember that healthy habits like mindfulness are hard for many people—so you’re never alone.
Talking openly about our resistance to something allows us to think more clearly about why we feel the way we do without shame or guilt clouding the equation.
If you can, talk with someone you trust about what you’re feeling. I’ve personally found speaking with a mental health professional really helped me work through my resistance to meditation and yoga. You can also join an online community, such as a forum or Facebook group, to connect with others who will share struggles with you.
9. Accept Yourself as You Are
Remember that just because something works well for many people, it doesn’t mean it’ll be best for you. If it’s hard to do regularly stick with something that it’s traditionally known as “good for you,” perhaps there’s a better way to do it that fits your life and mind.
For example, some people I really look up to suggest getting up really early to meditate and/or exercise before starting work. But for me, I do better when I exercise in the evening after my work is finished.
I’m usually up later than average because my fiance gets off work late and evenings are the only time we have to spend together. So it’s best for me to sleep longer in the morning, still get enough rest, and workout when I have the most energy later. It’s healthier for me to do this than try to fit someone else’s mold of what’s healthy.
Don’t forget that “surrendering” to self-acceptance is one of the healthiest things you can gift yourself.
10. Get Used to Being Flexible and Patient
Wellness is not black and white. What works best for you can shift from time to time—sometimes even day-to-day.
If you didn’t get enough sleep last night, you might need rest more you need a long workout today. If you’re having a particularly busy week, you might have less time to sit mindfully.
That’s okay; the point is how to stick to healthy habits over a lifetime, and that means being flexible with yourself.
Our society has also taught us to seek instant gratification. (Am I the only one who gets antsy waiting five seconds to skip a YouTube ad?). But true change doesn’t happen like that. Habits take time to build, and they change with life. They take patience and “progress, not perfection” reminders.
So, approach healthy habits with flexibility and openness. If you find yourself not doing them anymore, take a deep breath, show compassion to yourself for navigating this crazy thing called life, examine where your thoughts go, and slowly add those things back into your life in a way that works for you.