Growing New Habits

 

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We often describe ourselves, humans, as ‘creatures of habit’. I think we can find a comfort and stability in our routines and habits, especially in times of busyness or turmoil. But what about when we want to add to / shift / or even radically change these habits? How do we build new ways of being and doing into our daily lives? How do we create new patterns in our thinking and new ‘go to’ things we do.

I have read that it takes 10,000 repetitions to master a skill and develop the associated neural pathways; or that on average it takes a person more than 2 months before a new habit/behaviour becomes automatic (depending on the person / behaviour / circumstances…). The advice is usually to start small. Give yourself achievable goals. Celebrate success. Manage expectations. Keep going, and try again.

At the start of this year I decided that I wanted to build in some new good habits. My caseload at work has been heavy and in order to take care of myself and be able to keep doing my job as well as possible, I knew I needed to find a way of helping myself do all those things I knew were good for me and I wanted to do, but was finding it hard to do on anything like a regular basis. So while everyone needs to find what works for them, I am a lover of lists, and so one satisfying list later (daily and weekly goals for a month in a lovely table printed out and stuck on the kitchen wall) I started. Everything is achievable, nothing is unpleasant, and I get a mini endorphin hit every time I tick off an item on that list. Getting to add a tick even motivates me to do something later on in my day.

I am now at the end of the second month. The second sheet may not be quite as fully ticked as the first month, but there are a lot of ticks and I can see which activities I am going to have to work harder at incorporating into my life. I can also say with a sense of achievement, as well as one of increased wellbeing, that overall I am feeling better about having more stretching and breathing and journaling and art-making and card-writing (to name a few) in my life. I am happy to be a creature settling into these habits.