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Habits: Changing and Replacing

Write-down-your-negative-habitsWe truly are creatures of habit and are what we repeatedly do. About 40 percent of our waking hours are a matter of habit. The primary reason for this is because habits require minimal effort or thought and allow us to focus on other aspects of our lives that need more concentrated time and energy. Habits are comfortable pathways or tracks. They’re easy to follow, usually convenient and therefore, are hard to break. They are ingrained behaviors that mostly serve a freeing purpose, but occasionally others get in the way.

Researchers postulate that it takes 30 days in a row of trying a new behavior before it becomes a habit. I think this is a most conservative estimate. If you have ever tried to modify an entrenched habit, you may agree with me. If you wear a watch regularly, simply move it from one wrist to another and see how many times during the day you look at the wrong wrist to check the time. This is but one of dozens of mindless behaviors we have developed to ease us through our daily lives. Where I place my toothbrush and toothpaste is another such behavior. I don’t have to waste time and energy morning and evening trying to find them. In fact, sometimes I even eat or don’t eat out of habit. It is 6 p.m., so it must be “time to eat.” I am done eating “because I just brushed my teeth.”

Negative habits sometimes interfere with the positive changes we are attempting to make in our lives. Once they are identified, it takes tremendous awareness, energy and focus to modify or replace them. Remember, the habit is serving a purpose that needs to be identified and kept in mind if you are to be effective in changing or eliminating it. Sometimes making a change to a minor habit helps reinforce the effort. To illustrate, consider moving something you use all the time, like your kitchen wastebasket. Each time you go to the former location, remind yourself of the other habit you are working to change. This will help keep the primary change in mind. Not only that, but as the rest of those who share your life cope with the wastebasket being relocated, it will remind you of how your changes may impact those around you.

I invite you to get out your notebook, jot down some habits you might change and then, pick the one which you think will make the biggest difference in your journey. Pick the change that matters most on which to focus your energy, effort and resources. Be determined and enlist help—you can do it. Each time, it is your choice.

I Care, Barb

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