I’ve just finished listening to an interesting podcast where Dr. Rangan Chatterjee talks about about how to form daily habits in a way that actually works. The takeaway is that you need to make the habit as easy as possible and also tack it onto something you already do every day if you want it to stick. Dr Chatterjee makes the good point that we don’t have to force ourselves to brush our teeth in the morning and at night – we just do it. We don’t decide, oh, I’m a bit tired tonight or I’ve got a lot of work on, so I’ll just skip it for a couple of days. No, we just do it, and it’s easy.
Forming a regular practice Tai Chi habit however can be hard. It’s very easy to convince yourself to not practice because you’re tired or just not feeling like it.
Tai Chi, Qigong or stretching is also a bit like brushing your teeth, because you don’t get much benefit from not brushing your teeth for a week, and then doing a massive 1 hour deep clean on a Sunday. No, brushing your teeth needs to be done a little every day if it’s going to work, and so does Tai Chi, Qigong and stretching.
Which brings us to the question of how we actually develop a strong practice habit like this for Tai Chi, and that takes me back to Dr. Rangan Chatterjee. Most of us make a pot of coffee, or cup of tea in the morning. It’s a ritual we’re already doing and nobody needs to force us to start doing. (If you don’t do this, I bet there is something similar you do in the morning?) What we need to do is start hacking that existing habit with the new habit we want to instill, in this case Tai Chi, stretching, standing, meditation, or whatever it is.
While your coffee is brewing, stop looking at your phone and spend those minutes doing the thing you want to do. One thing I’ve started to do is pour the water on my tea bag, then do a stretching routine while it is brewing. This way I don’t need to rely on motivation to do the routine each morning, because motivation is great when it’s high, but a rubbish thing to rely on when you are feeling tired, rushed or grumpy.
Even a few minutes of whatever it is will make a difference. I already feel like I’m more flexible in my hips because of these few minutes. And doing those few minutes might make me feel like doing more immediately afterwards. Other ideas for things to do while the coffee is brewing would be some single arm silk reeling circles, some standing Qigong, or repeat small sections of the form, like Grasp Birds Tail. The choice is yours. Try it!
If you like this life hack then I’ve talked about a similar idea before to do with brushing your teeth in a horse stance. Check it out!