In yoga, the concept of a “sanskara” refers to an “impression.” According to Wikipedia, sanskaras are “impressions derived from past experiences that form desires that influence future responses and behavior.”
I like to think of sanskaras like the concentric rings inside a tree’s trunk. They grow over the years and as the tree grows, more circles form. As it relates to humans, sanskaras are the habits we have. Just like the rings of a tree grow as the tree ages, our habits become more ingrained in us as we age.
Even the unhealthiest habit can be hard to break. Sometimes, at face value, something may seem unhealthy, but the individual is receiving some kind of reward for doing the behavior. That behavior may not be healthy either, but on a conscious or unconscious level, the individual “feels” rewarded for performing the behavior. For instance, smoking is clearly unhealthy, but people who have an addiction to nicotine feel good when they smoke. They may know that smoking is bad for them on an intellectual level, but they feed their addiction by smoking.
In trying to break a habit, I used a technique that was self-created but I later found was referenced in a book on Zen philosophy. I put a glass jar on my desk and every day that I resisted the unwanted behavior, I put a penny in the jar. Watching the jar fill with pennies became a gentle reward for avoiding the unwanted behavior.
Breaking a bad habit can be challenged by our lack of self-esteem and a lack of faith in our capabilities and ourselves. When trying to break a bad habit, couple it with doing things that make you feel strong. Yoga, meditation, exercising, running, spending time with positive people and eating healthy foods are all part of a program to break an unhealthy habit.
And, just as habits take time to build, they take time to soften and fade away. Be compassionate with yourself, as you will stumble along the way. But keep the faith and be strong. Stay on the path to greater health and well-being by starting each new day with a renewed attitude and a belief in yourself.