Habit forming…

In a quest to learn how to make the most of the very limited amount of free time I have, I came across an article on habits.  The article discussed how making very small changes in your daily routine would eventually lead to bigger changes in your life.  The small changes, when done every single day, become a habit.  Once something is already a habit, it’s much easier to expand upon.  The author used the example of flossing.  If you aren’t a person who normally flosses, she said, it’s unrealistic to think you are going to floss every night for ten minutes.  But if you start out small, by flossing just a minute each night, eventually it will become easier and easier.  Once you start to see results, you will want to do it for a longer time, to increase those results.  Eventually,  you will be flossing every night for ten minutes or more.

This was not an unfamiliar concept.  For anyone who has ever been a member of Weight Watchers, they always tell you to start with small changes to make it easier to make a larger overall change.  It’s something I’ve heard my whole life, in fact.  Of course, it’s not something I ever really listened to…so I started to think about why that was.

I came up with a couple of things.  First…I’m kind of lazy and I don’t like to do hard things.  I also really like instant gratification, so I often make the choice that will make me happiest right this minute, instead of the choice that will make me happiest long-term.  And lastly, whenever I try to make changes, I go overboard and try to change every single thing at once.  It’s too much change and it’s too hard to do and I get overwhelmed and I give up.

After all of these realizations, I decided I was going to give it another try, but this time, I was going to start small and change only a few tiny things at a time.  I wasn’t going to add things until I felt like I was ready.  I started with Diet Coke.

As you may know if you’ve been here a while, I love Diet Coke.  Love it.  Seriously…it’s basically an addiction.  I gave it up for a while…when my girlfriend would email me articles daily about how the aspartame was going to give me Alzheimer’s…but in the end, I always go back.  I can drink a lot of Diet Coke in a day.  I don’t drink coffee, so I often drink Diet Coke with breakfast.  And it’s not unusual for me to bring a huge glass of it to bed with me.  When I realized I was drinking an entire bottle in a day, I knew I had to cut down…but quitting completely wasn’t the answer.  I don’t eat sugar and I’ve cut most processed food and fake chemicals out of my diet.  Diet Coke is my favorite thing ever, so I’m going to have some, but I clearly need rules.  So I started with no Diet Coke with breakfast.  Instead, I drank water or tea.  When that became really easy, I stopped having it at night while I watched TV.  I switched to tea, which also helps me fall asleep.  Then I stopped taking the soda out of the kitchen. Which meant I would only drink soda while sitting at the table and eating a meal.  Then I cut it down even further to only about half a glass.  I make that last through the meal or I switch to water once the soda is gone.  I don’t even keep the bottle on the table while we eat anymore.  It took two months to get to this point and now it’s easy.  I don’t crave the soda anymore during the day at all and I still get to enjoy a bit of it.

Now I’m working on water.  I do drink it during the day, but not nearly as much as I should.  I’m lucky if I drink 16 oz in a day, which is not even close to enough.  So I’ve started a new habit…while I’m working, every time I switch what I’m doing, I take a sip.  It works pretty well, because my phone rings at least once every 30 minutes and I get a new email every 5.  It’s been working this past week.  A couple of times, I made it to 32 ounces.

I’m also working on reading while I eat lunch, instead of watching TV.  Daytime TV is awful and I really don’t need to watch The Chew.  It drives me nuts.  So I’m trying to read instead.  It’s harder when J is home because he works at the kitchen table and he keeps the TV going 24/7.  But I’m trying.

Hopefully, by the end of this year I will have a bunch of new, healthier habits.  It only took me 40 years to get here :-)