Habits - Good, Bad or Otherwise
Updated: Feb 7, 2021
Happy New Year! If you are like most folks, leaving 2020 behind did not exactly break your heart. It was definitely a year filled with new experiences, sometimes behind a mask, other times safely sequestered at home. Perhaps the year of quarantine may have even helped you develop new habits. The question is, do you like these new habits? During 2020 I developed some particularly good habits but also held on to a few habits that really needed to go, or in the very least, be tamed.
Case in point, I have this insane addiction to Chipotle’s Chips. If they are in the house, I will obsess over them and eventually eat them. It really does not matter what time of the day it is. Appetizer before breakfast? Sure! Bedtime snack? Why not? Anything goes. I have found that the only way to control this habit is to just not buy extra chips when we order takeout. Clearly, I know that there will always be a few extra chips when I order one bag for my son and husband to share, so I should not feel compelled to order one for each of them. As if that is not bad enough, there’s Chilis with their offer of free guacamole and chips. I mean, who can turn THAT down? Turns out, I can! I now just delete those generous email offers, and go one step further to unsubscribe altogether. This is a case where free is not always better, but a good habit is.
One good habit that I developed in 2020, that pays itself forward, is daily journaling. It is the first thing I do in the morning after I feed my fur baby, Cinnamon, and let her out. Weighing in at nine pounds, this poodle turns 16 years old this month.
Food anxiety issues demand food in her dish when she returns from outside, if I am to have a moment of peace to enjoy my coffee and journaling. Funny thing is, all she wants to know is that the food is there, even though she will not touch it until later in the day. With Cinnamon settled, I get my cup of cold brew and sit and write for about 30 minutes. I write about anything that crosses my mind. I complain. I reflect on the day that I am facing, as well as yesterday’s issues. Maybe I’m dreading getting on that spin bike.
My journaling is just for me. It’s not for sharing, and I never go back and read it. Keeping a journal began in March 2020, and I have not missed a day since. It’s a nonnegotiable part of my morning routine. Journaling allows me to set my intention for the day, put yesterday away, and get the whining out of my system. By putting my thoughts on paper, they’re not taking up space in my head, allowing me to be present in my day.
I learned about this process after reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It is worth the read if you have not already picked it up. Writing for 30 minutes, or even three pages is not required for it to be effective. It’s the process that matters. My belief is that the habit of just writing “stuff” down allows your head to clear and you to become more intentional.
So why do I bring this up? Many well-intended people make resolutions every year that include something connected to a healthier lifestyle. Some ideas that come to mind include adding meditation, yoga, exercise, or losing weight. The common thread amongst these resolutions is the need to create habits that stick, in order to deliver the desired results. For a habit to stick, it takes practicing it for 21 to 66 days, depending on the source you consult. From my experience, it is closer to the latter number, but worth the journey. It may seem like a long time but remember, you have a whole year to make it happen. So, why not begin today by creating habits that will help you meet your goals? You start with committing to one small change at a time. For example, “Tomorrow I will ride my bike for 10 minutes or walk on the treadmill for 10 minutes.” Commit to doing it for two to three days next week. Maybe the following week you can add just five more minutes, and so on. Before you know it, it’s become a habit that you don’t even think about. For me, riding my spin bike has turned into a six to seven days a week practice in the morning, right after journaling. Once I conquered that spin habit, I challenged myself by adding sub-goals. Now, my cycling must be a minimum of 30 minutes and I must burn at least 200 calories.
These little sub-goals are what keep me honest and driving forward, not to mention they keep spin from becoming just a “check the box” task. Additionally, I now have accountability partners that spin with me. These people are the reason that I actually get on the bike in the morning, especially when I might be thinking I’d rather sleep in. If I committed to spin with someone, I HAVE to show up. By sharing your goal and having a support system, you are more likely to stick with it.
Goals for 2021
What kinds of goals have you set for yourself in 2021? Do you want to exercise? Start with 10 minutes a day of walking in place while watching the news or Netflix. Do you want to get in better shape? Start with doing sit-ups or wall push ups during commercials on TV. Do you have a vision of what achieving your goal or resolution looks like? Is it to be able to run a 5K? Why not start with walking a mile inside your house, which is what I do, since winter in New England is not the best walking weather. You will be surprised what you can achieve just by challenging yourself with five more minutes or 500 more steps each day or week. What baby steps are you willing to take to raise the bar and meet your goals?
I have set a goal for this year to be able to do a pull up by the first week of July, which is when my son is getting married. I used this date as it was easy to remember and provided a reasonable deadline. I know this is going to take hard work and discipline in my weightlifting workouts, but I also know that by sharing my goal, I now have a broad accountability group. I had two fitness goals in 2020: Complete push ups from my toes and complete a pull up. I am proud to say that I far exceeded the pushup goal, completing 36 push ups from my toes as well as eight in a decline position.
While I was not able to complete a pull up, I have gained great strength and know that, with a bit more work, I will achieve this goal. I visualize my success, and know that my hard work will have life changing rewards.
Remember, it only takes small changes in our habits to gain great benefits. I never thought I would work out in the morning, and now I spin almost every day. It all started with just a 10 minute try that stuck, and now it’s a real habit.
In the words of C.S.Lewis, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” You’ve got this!
This sign is in my gym to remind me that I am never too old to set another goal!! All the best, Cathy