Positive habits and the habit of practice

The habit of being healthy and it’s associated behaviour poses a challenge for lots of us. When asked I often recommend that people start with five minutes gentle exercise each morning.  Five minutes is be no means an optimal duration for practice but it provides a gateway to adopting a healthy habit. Commencing and progressing practice without any initial time related hesitation or obstruction is a powerful tool and an important step to establishing new healthy habits.

In reality people rarely spend as little as 5 minutes exercising, once the body and mind are in a state conducive to practice and we realise we are enjoying it we tend to spend more time. For those who need a tight time frame to justify, assess and adopt the new regime I believe a little is better than nothing at all. Even more importantly a little every day goes a lot further towards establishing new habits than a lot once every now and then.

In an article I read recently sports psychologist Helen O Connor described “A habit is an action or behaviour that we do automatically and regularly, without consciously thinking about doing it. This behaviour is associated with some cue that initiates the habit.” 

The process involved in prior to, during and after our 5 minutes of Qi Gong are all part of formulating our positive habit. Providing a context to look at our mind, body and breathing from a fresher, healthier more informed perspective. The knock on effect of that may be far reaching, but without changing our habitual behaviour we will never know.

Most people have tried new diets or exercise regimes only to find once the honeymoon period is over they revert to their old ways. One of the main precepts of Qi Gong is the development of self-discipline but there is an element of chicken and egg involved in that process. I am a great believer in things being enjoyable and fulfilling and always maintain that if Qi Gong, as you have experienced it, is neither of the above then find something that is.  

The content of your practice is also relevant to the formation of new habits. Unsurprisingly research suggests more complex behaviour takes longer to absorb than simpler ones. This again supports the idea that less can be more and that the simpler the practice the greater potential for gains and healthy habit formation.

In Western society we are not taught to meditate and so by it’s very nature Qi Gong and Meditation can present initial complex learning challenges. That is not a reason not to start. On speaking to a teacher earlier today they expressed with remorse that many of the children in there charge seemed to have an inbuilt, default setting to give up when ever the going got a little tough. Their generation did not have the pleasure of listening to Billy Ocean’s When the going gets tough, but we all too often fall into the same behavioural pattern. Out habits and their associated triggers are so deeply engrained through our experiences of life, the media and mass marketing that at times we are unable to break the mould.

Overcoming old habits with positive new ones is a challenge, Empowering yourself is not always easy but it is worthwhile. One of the great things about Qi Gong and Meditation is that they give you tools to address the psychological and physical challenges you may encounter en route.


For some of the research behind the thinking have a look at the article referenced above is located at: