Friday, January 31, 2014

Habit Hiccups

Why is it so difficult to break a bad habit but pretty darned easy to break a good one? We’ve all known folks who can’t stop smoking or drinking or eating sweets or whatever the issue may be.  Sure, maybe there’s a physical element to some of those bad habits, but still.

There’s plenty of recent research out there refuting the old maxim that you can form a new habit after 21 days of repetition.  Apparently, that might work for something like drinking a glass of water every day with breakfast or even eating an apple a day, but something like walking every day or going to bed earlier each night?  Not so fast.


In fact, the latest research cites 66 days as the average time for forming a new habit with some habit formation taking as long as 254 days.  And one bit of wisdom holds it’s easier to form a new habit than break an old one and suggests replacing an old habit like late night snacking with something like knitting. I tend to snack after dinner, so to break that bad habit, perhaps I should consider drinking green tea instead of eating animal crackers. I already play Words with Friends while watching TV, so you’d think I’d be fully occupied.

I tried to form the habit of daily journaling, and I kept it up for a few months and then fell off the wagon. I just went out and bought a new journal in an attempt to jump start that “good” habit. I even fell off the yoga wagon briefly, after years of attending a weekly lunch-time yoga class.  That’s a habit I enjoy, but after four-five weeks of not being able to attend for various reasons—doctor’s appointments, business meetings, being out of town—I almost couldn’t get myself to class the next time I was free. Now what’s up with that?  I finally made it and then, the very next week, had to miss it again.  I think I’m having habit hiccups.

My workout partner laughs when I credit her with getting me to the gym two days a week for four years, but I know that if I weren’t meeting her and paying a personal trainer, I’d fall of that wagon too. It does seem a bit pathetic to have to pay someone so I’ll work out regularly, but if that’s what it takes…

Of course, writing about habits, whether breaking or forming them, brings to mind my April 2013 blog, Chain, Chain, Chain, about Jerry Seinfeld’s advice to a young comic. Click on the link to check it out. I may have to try the “Big X” trick again.

What about you?  When your walking partner is unavailable, do you maintain your walking habit by going by yourself or do you take the day off? Do you commit to starting a new habit, for example, saying, “Today, I will not eat anything after dinner,” and then find yourself reaching for a snack that evening?

Ah well, if it were easy, we’d all be perfect…and perhaps a bit boring, right?


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