Monday, July 30, 2012


Lately I've been thinking a lot about habits - good ones, not-so-good ones, ones I have that work for me, ones I'd like to have, ones I'd like to get rid of. "Habits" has been a topic of conversation at home, in therapy, and on some of the blogs I read. One is the blog No Meat Athlete, where Matt has talked about some of the habits he's recently picked up and the potential power inherent in adopting new, beneficial habits - things like making your bed every day, doing a baseline amount of exercise daily, etc.

I can think of a few habits that at this point seem pretty ingrained in my daily routine and that I don't want to drop, ever, because they have made a big difference:

  • Flossing my teeth. It sounds silly, but one time - in my pre-flossing days - I paid $7000 in dental bills and wiped out our entire savings account. My teeth seem prone to developing cavities no matter what I do, but a few minutes of flossing every night has definitely helped counteract that. My teeth were relatively problem-free at my last two cleanings.
  • Bringing my lunch from home. I used to go out for lunch a lot more often, back in the days when I still ate things like sandwiches on wheat bread, pizza, and other inexpensive, gluten-y favorites. Getting rid of gluten from my diet drastically limited my restaurant options at that time and forced me to get cooking. And although it's gotten easier over the past few years to find GF items on most menus, those offerings often seem pretty halfhearted and thoughtless. I've gotten in the habit of eating leftovers for lunch the next day, plus an apple, an energy bar, some nuts and dried fruit, etc. Knowing what is in my food gives me peace of mind... and honestly, I think it tastes pretty decent, too. 
  • Running at least five times a week. This doesn't even feel like a habit anymore. It feels more like a compulsion. When I don't run, I get antsy and worry about declining fitness. I do force myself to take rest weeks every now and then, but that's usually when I'm really busy/distracted and can't worry as much about exercising anyway.

Two habits I am currently trying to cultivate:
  • Drinking 64 ounces of water every day. I've never been a big water drinker, even when I exercise. I think I get a lot of the fluids I need through the food I eat (fruits, veggies, etc.) However, my doctor recently pointed out that because colon cancer runs in my family, I need to do my best to... keep everything moving along. And drinking water is a very good way to do that.
  • Avoiding one-use items. I try to take my Nalgene and my insulated coffee mug to school every day. Sometimes I forget, and then I end up buying coffee in a styrofoam cup from the cafe in my building. Coffee with a side of guilt just isn't that good. Same with grocery shopping: I feel bad when I forget my cloth bags and end up with a trunk full of plastic bags. (For a really great guilt trip about one-use items, see the documentary Trashed. You will look at plastic bags and bottles in a whole new way.)
Habits that I would like to have but don't, and probably won't anytime in the near future:
  • Making my bed in the morning. If I can eat breakfast, get showered and dressed, put together my lunch, get my stuff together, and be in the car by 8 a.m., I feel highly accomplished. Adding bed-making to the list would be like purposely seeking out failure.
  • Cleaning stuff on a regular basis, a la Flylady. I mean, we clean, but not on any regular schedule. I do my best cleaning when I am anxious and/or procrastinating or when I find myself tripping over Legos/cars/random crap that comes in birthday party goodie bags. Or when I can't see out the window because there are too many handprints on the glass.
  • Meditating. I think this will happen at some point, but right now I seem to have a massive mental block when it comes to meditation. Yes, I believe that it can work wonders, but sitting still for five minutes makes me feel like punching a wall. And isn't that kind of NOT the point? I use running, walks outside, and cooking as time for meditation-like brain activity.
A habit I would like to get rid of: Negative thinking. Of course everyone thinks in a negative way sometimes, and perhaps it's occasionally necessary. But I am a glass-half-empty kind of person in pretty much every situation, even situations that are supposed to be fun, happy, lighthearted, etc. Doesn't do much for anxiety or depression. I'm working on replacing negative/useless thoughts with more positive/useful/pragmatic ones. This is such an ingrained habit, though, that I really have to be on top of it, especially on days that are tiring or stressful.

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