Habits that Help or Hinder
We are what we repeatedly do,” Aristotle famously proclaimed. We are programmed to develop habits so that tasks become easier, and not something we have to consciously contemplate each time. Behaviors that we perform without thinking about, are often called instincts. All animals have instincts for survival. It’s like a reflex that saves us time and energy. But what was programmed as a survival instinct, has also adversely affected human kind as well.
Recently, I took a continuing education course that got me really thinking about habits; bad habits, good habits, successful habits, etc. We typically associate habits as something bad that we try to break. We know that stopping an activity that has become a habit can be very difficult. Smoking cigarettes is a BIG one that has caused many struggles, and many of which have been unsuccessful. Fortunately, that’s one habit I never developed, because I always hated cigarette smoke. I did, however, have a pretty mean thumb sucking habit, when I was young. I remember it was a real bitch to kick.
I often say I’m a creature of habit, because I eat the same breakfast every day; oats with Isapro whey protein and blueberries. Once in a while, I’ll switch it up, but that’s my “go to” breakfast. I go to the gym around the same time everyday. If I don’t go during a certain window of time, it throws off my day. I think these habits have been mostly healthy for me, but I don’t want them to keep me from being open to other opportunities or too resistant to change.
As people age, they become so set in their ways, that they lose a lot of spontaneity and refuse to change anything, even for the better. They are adverse to change and sometimes fear it, thinking all change is bad/scary. Familiarity is comforting, but it’s also confining. I don’t want my mind to grow closed and rigid. I want to continue to improve, gain more experiences and learn more.
The instructor at my CEU course (PhD psychologist and stand up comedian) spoke of how some people were more inclined to worry. If they let worrying become a habit, then they would find themselves constantly thinking about all the things that could go wrong. As the habit progressed, it could cause a host of issues, to include anxiety disorders that may need to be treated with medication and therapy. The idea is keep it from ever getting to that point. You need to refocus when you find yourself doing or thinking something that is not healthy. Divert yourself from that path. Pick another habit, a good habit, to do in its place and take a detour. Smile or watch something funny when you’re upset so that you’re not focused on it. Go for a walk or to the gym when you feel like binging on food, smoking, or being a couch potato.
Did you know that when you smile, it actually has an affect on your mood and can help your mood improve? Sure, if you’re clinically depressed and you fake a smile, you’re not going to be miraculously cured. That’s not what I’m talking about. But you have to disrupt negative patterns/habits to improve.
If you are constantly focused on negative aspects of your life, you will never be happy. You have to change what you’re doing in order to change how you’re feeling. You can’t expect to feel great, get in better shape, earn more money, or get better at doing anything…. if you don’t change anything you’re doing.
If you condition yourself into believing that your life is awful, if most likely will be. So try the same approach, but in reverse. Convince yourself that your life is great, smile, exercise, eat healthy. Eventually, it will get better by the power of thought and new healthy habits.
You also can’t expect someone else to make things better for you. If you do, you will be very disappointed. That’s your job. You can’t make excuses for why your choices of food and/or exercise aren’t better if you truly have the choice and just don’t make the right one. Your habits have to be the best choices for you mentally, physically and spiritually. Let’s face it, in the U.S.A. we are fortunate to have these choices. If we have to develop habits, let’s try to chose the ones that benefit us. I know…I know…breaking bad habits and developing good habits are tasks that are far easier said than done. True!! But hey….I don’t suck my thumb anymore, so there ya go!! Humpf!! <wink>