Articles

Creatures of Habit or Stuck in a Rut

As I pulled into the petrol station to fill up my car last week, I noticed that I had pulled up to pump number 7, again.  The one I always choose.  It isn’t the most accessible and it certainly has nothing to do with superstition.  It most likely is the one which was available the first time I filled up there, and like the proverbial salmon, I have returned to that one every time since.  I joke sometimes that I have a borderline anxiety disorder, however, this is probably closer to the truth than I would like to admit.  The experience in the filling station prompted me to critically evaluate the other habits in my daily life.  It challenged me to try to figure out which of these auto-pilot activities are helping me to reach my goals and which of them are hindering my progress.

Each morning, without fail, I snooze my alarm clock.  This is one thing that infuriates me about myself.  It serves no purpose.  I rarely fall back asleep.  Even if I do, those extra ten minutes of sleep are not going to have some magical restorative properties.  What those ten minutes do do, however, is put me on the back foot, before my feet even hit my bedroom floor.  I spend the rest of the morning rushing around, trying to get out the door and generally stressing myself out.  Why, oh why, do I do this?

When I looked through my daily rituals, there were many of these, seemingly insignificant little habits.  Some positive, some negative and some which have little or no impact.  It made me wonder just how much of life are we consciously piloting and how much of it is spent simply following familiar pathways?  If we were to ask ourselves “why am I doing this?” how often would we have a convincing answer?

When it comes to issues which impact our health and fitness, it can be particularly important to ask ourselves just such questions.  Am I reaching for that piece of chocolate because I really want it and am going to enjoy it, or am I just reaching for it because I always have chocolate at this time?  Am I ordering this take away just because I always order in on a Friday night?  Answering these questions can be a really good starting point towards making a change in your lifestyle.  Habit is a powerful thing.  Often described as a force, it can be extremely difficult to break.  Recognising that we do certain things out of such habits, however, can be liberating.  Realising that it is habit that has you reaching for the biscuit tin in the evening, as opposed to a genuine hunger or craving, can give you a psychological advantage when trying to change the behaviour.  Habits are formed and they can be unformed.  Better ones can be put in their place.

Of course, not all habits are bad.  Just as some can work against us, others can work with us.  If, for instance, you are in the habit or doing your food prep for the week on a Sunday, you don’t need to ask yourself whether or not you feel like it.  You won’t find yourself wondering if maybe you should do it tomorrow instead.  You will just do it on Sunday, because that’s what you do.  Positive habits like this are what will get you through when motivation and willpower have been exhausted.  When we get to the stage where we are doing all of the positive and health promoting things we need to do, almost without thinking about it, we really have won.  They say you have to do something 28 times in a row before it becomes a habit.  This means that if you start tomorrow, in a little less than a month, a new, healthy habit could be formed!

As for me, over the next few weeks, I am going to work on breaking some of the negative habits, starting with the damnable alarm clock!  I am going to consciously choose a different pump at the petrol station too.  I will continue to try to identify and challenge the little habits in my daily life.  Getting stuck in a rut can happen so easily.  It’s so gradual that it’s almost imperceptible and before you know it, you have become a passenger in your own life.  If I am to become a creature of habit, I at least want to be sure the habits are taking me in the right direction.  There are enough outside forces trying to derail our progress without working against ourselves.

I will keep you up to date with my progress, and if you need any help with yours, be sure to get in touch.  Until next time xxx

 

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