8 May 2018

Making and Breaking Habits

Do you ever wonder how many habits you have made and broken in your life? It's in our nature to cling to the familiar – we are wired to move towards a more rhythmic way of life, like the magnetism of a catchy song or a perfectly paced novel. We might like to think we are whimsical and spontaneous all the time, perhaps in an attempt to make ourselves seem more interesting and attractive, but we all have our routines and we all fall into habits.

Most of the time I am unaware of my utter compliance with the routines I follow day to day, but it does crop up now and again. A morning without my phone, an uninterrupted encounter with nature, an inspiring film, a conversation with my niece or an old lady at church - they cause me to question why I do mostly the same things every day. We can blame other factors for lots of things in life, but when it comes to our habits, routines and happiness – these are things we have some power over.

A colleague shared an article with me last week about making healthy habits in your twenties. The idea, according to the NY Times, is that the patterns you establish right now will "impact your health, productivity, financial security and happiness for decades".

At work we talk a lot about exercise while scooping handfuls of custard creams out of the biscuit jar. This is normal for anyone who works in an office, (which, by the way, is a perfectly legitimate career path and is not included in the starter pack for the boring millennial who decided to work in marketing), but I haven't been to the gym in nearly 8 months, despite a deep desire to do so. Why? I've fallen out of the habit, and while that was so easy to do, getting back into it is not.

Reading that article, however, helped me figure out a way to do get back into the habit of going to the gym. It was the trigger I needed. I like the gym, I like working out, I like that sense of achievement when I finish a class or a good run, I like ticking it off 'worked out' in my bullet journal habit tracker, I like how good I feel afterwards, I like how it keeps me in shape. But I don't like the change of routine, I don't like getting up early, I don't like joining new gyms, I don't like being the most out of shape person in class, I don't like being the new person and everyone somehow knowing it.

But the pros outweigh the cons, and when I gave myself a reward to look forward to, I had another reason to kickstart that habit again. I didn't want to miss out on fresh bread from Bakesmiths, toasted and smothered in peanut butter and jam! So I put all the cons of going back to the gym out of my mind and put all of my effort into focusing on the reward. It worked.

You might hate peanut butter and jam, cringe when people give you compliments, have no inclination to join a gym, but maybe there is another habit you want to break, or pick up again, because you know the long-term gratification is better than the instant. Naturally, we are lazy. But there is no time like the present and no one but you who can make the change. Don't put it off til tomorrow. Choose your path, live mindfully, and eat as many biscuits are you want.


1 comment

  1. Good points. Often habits are comforters which can be very reassuring and therefore not necessarily bad in themselves. Even after 18 months regular running I still sometimes have to talk myself out of staying in bed...but I’m getting better at it and benefitting from it but i still occasionally have that lie in.


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