I really meant to write this post in the first week of January – but it is just as well that I am doing it now. I couldn’t have taken much action on whatever I meant to do anyway, what with the weddings and parties and outings – it has been more than I can manage to stick to my healthy lifestyle. Ah well, I have good lab results to prove I’ve been good, very good.
Since December, I’ve been receiving a spate of messages related to resolutions and habits – making them, how not to break them, why make them, why ditch them.
I’ve got Dr Laura with 5 resolutions that will make you a better parent this year
There’s Dr Oz with his 5-step health challenge the necessary things to do—and stop doing—to live your best year yet. – 5 ways to live your healthiest life ever.
I’ve got messages from life coaches promising to transform my life by helping me choose goals for this year.
All very inspiring – no doubt about that.
I do believe in planning and having some goals in place, mainly to give me direction so I know where I am heading, and can use my time productively.
Over the years, I’ve found that much of the time, more than resolutions, I have to work on habits.
The thing about habits is, to quote Lucas Remmerswaal
“Good habits once established are just as hard to break as bad habits, and bad habits are easier to abandon today than tomorrow.”
Easier said than done.
Ask any kid biting her nails or exploring her nose!
According to research, while habits can be changed, the brain keeps a memory of the habit – which can come right back with the right triggers. For example, for someone who’s trying to lose weight the sight of a piece of chocolate can trash the good intentions. Sound familiar?
Sigh! It is the same with a deep-rooted habit.
Whether we like it or not, habits are crucial to our health and our success. They are actions we take as part of our daily routine. When these actions are habits, they don’t need thought. The great thing is, they provide a framework for our day – and let’s face it, routines are a mixed blessing. Good habits that contribute to our well being are a real blessing while the habits we want to change – such as snacking when we watch TV – not so much.
What’s the trick then?
The trick is to understand how “bad” habits work, and how they can be broken and replaced by new ones. This enables us develop healthy behaviors.
Repetition is key, with habits. Just like waking up, brushing our teeth, showering – which we do automatically. This allows our brain to focus on other things. We also develop habits when the brain’s reward centers are triggered – this may not be such a good thing as habits like binge eating, substance abuse and other “addictions” can build up. Why, a prime example is social media which can be a total time suck, keeping us from doing the things we plan to.
Why do we get stuck on the bad habits?
When we enjoy doing something even if we shouldn’t be doing it, it releases dopamine, a chemical in the brain. This makes the habit stronger. Oddly enough, have you noticed that even when you stop feeling happy about a habit, you continue to do it? I know I do. There are times when I know I ought not to do something, yet I go ahead and do it – simply because it has become a habit.
Why not break that habit?
There is no single strategy to break bad habits. Of course, one way is to become aware of them and tackle them.
Another way is to simply replace the bad habit with a good one. Sort of like overwriting it.
For example, if emotional eating or reaching out for food when sad – emotional eating – is a habit, replacing it with exercise can help. While the new habit won’t eliminate the old behavior, it is certainly possible to strengthen the new habit and push the old as far back as possible. Pretty much like Google does with search results. Okay, poor joke!
So – rather than carve resolutions in stone that will make me squirm even before the first month of the year is out, I’ve decided to create easy habits – small changes. This year my goals revolve around:
Diabetes is a lifelong condition that enjoys being pampered – so it is all about healthy diet, exercise and working on minimizing medication by monitoring sugar levels on a fortnightly basis. I signed interesting health challenges that focus around healthy living, small changes and realistic resolutions with one tip a day – which are easy to follow.
Mind, body and home – which means buying less, spending less time online, giving more.
Contributing more this year to my welfare home
Which entails increasing my earning through my writing
Building my blogs
I have five now and must work out an editorial plan that feeds all of them and keeps them healthy.
Getting my book drafts ready for the world
Biggest challenge, probably, but yes, I’ll do it.
I’ll try and avoid temptations
– a.k.a distractions. Mainly I must cultivate the habit of closing my mailbox instead of keeping it open for as long as I do. I got such a long lecture from my son about this last week my head is still reeling from it. The temptation to check email is so addictive. And before I know it, the hours have ticked by and that’s all I am doing.
Replace behaviors that do not serve my goals
In addition to less time with email, I hope to set myself fixed hours for my activities. What? Am I not already doing this? I am. But … uh, who has control over doorbells and phone calls? Also, I must break bad habits like self-criticism, perfectionism and my old friend, procrastination.
Get mentally prepared to make it work.
This could be easy, as I am so serious now.
I am sharing my plan with my family and friends so they cheer me on.
That’s easy – I get to read a book after every milestone. Win-win.
Now who wants to buddy up with me?
What habits would you like to break/create?
I would love to know!