I feel like the word ‘habit’ generally has a negative connotation nowadays. We say things like ‘I need to kick that habit’, or ‘You need to get out of the habit of…’.
But habits are just natural human ways of creating routines and sticking to them. We figure out what works for us, and if it does, then we repeat it. And if we repeat it enough, then it becomes a habit.
Why else do we brush our teeth every morning and evening? It’s one of the most boring things in the world, and ok, ok, it’s “good for us”. But is that enough of a motivation to get me to go on a 5k run every day? No, no it is not. We get in the habit of brushing our teeth because we do it twice a day, and this in turn reinforces the habit.
Our capacity to create long-lasting, ingrained habits is not something we should be trying to ‘kick’ or ‘get out of’. According to the Dalai Lama, it’s a useful tool for becoming happier.
Ever tried the 30 day exercise challenge app? I have, multiple times. And I’m pretty sure I always get to around day 18 and then give up. But the reason it’s a 30 day challenge is that science has shown that to be the amount of time we take to develop a new habit. So if we stick with something for 30 days, it becomes lodged in our routine.
So we’re on day 20 of the Happiness x Music Project - 10 more and we can hopefully make happiness a habit!
"He said “All you're really given is the sunshine and your name”. We both started laughin' when the sky started to rain”
I know we only just had a Kenny Chesney song recently, but ‘Get Along’ is one of my all time favourites, because it’s just so full of positivity and energy, so I had to find a way to include it. Kenny Chesney also pokes fun at himself in the above line, and I always love a song that has a great message, but that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
“Paint a wall, learn to dance
Call your mom, buy a boat
Drink a beer, sing a song
Make a friend, can't we all get along”
In the chorus, he makes a list of habits we can get into, and the way he reels them off makes it seem like he’s trying to ingrain them each time you listen to the song. I also find it inspiring especially during this time of lockdown, because we do have the opportunity to try new things and build new healthy habits. Although I’m not sure how much good buying a boat would do, given we’re all stuck inside…
“Get along while we can
Always give love the upper hand”
He caps off his list with an uplifting message of unity, which is what the song is ultimately all about. Just have compassion for those around you, and be loving towards them.
“Scared to live, scared to die
We ain't perfect but we try”
This is one of the best lines in the song, in my view, because it epitomises the anxiety we can feel about trying to do things perfectly. With a lot of Self-Help books, it can feel like there’s one ‘right way’ that we all should take in order to be happy.
But everyone is unique, and everyone needs to focus on different things. While this project sets out the Dalai Lama’s key teachings about how to be happy, it doesn’t mean there’s a one-size-fits-all model for happiness.
We’re all individuals with different worries, problems and goals. Some of us might need to focus more on being selfless and putting others first, while others might need to direct more energy into improving our self-image.
The Buddha has thousands of teachings ascribed to him, and many of them seem to contradict each other. But it is important to remember that he is portrayed as a doctor, and a doctor treats each patient according to their own individual needs. If someone turns up with breathing difficulties, a good doctor wouldn’t prescribe the same treatment as he would for someone with a broken leg.
In the same way, while all the teachings are ultimately beneficial, it is up to you to decide which ones you feel you need to give more attention to. This can then guide you in choosing which new habits you want to try and cultivate.