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Habits

I’m reading a great book at the moment about habits.  I read the same author’s first book a few years ago.  The Happiness Project was based on Gretchen Rubin’s blog about how to make her life happier.  I loved the idea, the book was really easy to read and I found it inspiring.  Not inspiring enough, it turns out, to be consistent with my own blog or write my own novel.  The magazine article promoting her recent offering, Better than Before, promises that reading the book will “make you happier.” I was intrigued; who doesn’t want to be happier?

Now I know that habits are important and I know that habits, mine certainly, can often be bad.  I definitely know that habits are powerful and very difficult to change.  For instance, I got into the habit of eating something sweet with a cup of tea every evening after my dinner.  Then when I wanted to clean up my diet, it was almost impossible to break that habit.  When I did my 28 day detox recently, I had to give up caffeine.  For the most part that wasn’t a problem, I can give or take coffee and I don’t drink caffeinated soft drinks, but every time I had my favourite apple and peanut butter snack, I was sad that it wasn’t joined by it’s usual companion, a cup of tea.  That habit of pairing the two, ruined my favourite snack when I couldn’t have them both together.

I was of the belief that if I did something for 21 days religiously, it would form a new habit or if I gave something up for 21 days it would break the habit.  Not true it seems as I proved time and again when I give up something every year for lent and when after the 6 weeks are up I return to said habit with my previous gusto.

The thing I found fascinating about Gretchen Rubin’s book is her findings that one way doesn’t suit all.  For instance, I would probably be classed as an Obliger in her framework; which means that I am only good at sticking at something if it affects somebody else and I am being held accountable.  Which would explain why, as much as I want to write regularly, I cannot bring myself to do it; because it’s just for me and I’m not accountable to anybody else.  But I can stick to my diet and exercise regime because if I wasn’t it would be clear to everyone around me in the change in my appearance or what I am eating. She also explains that different types of people require different ways in making them stick to a new habit.  Some people need to make it a firm commitment in their schedule, others hate the idea of having to do something at the same time every day so need to do it in a more spontaneous way.  Some people really have to understand why they need to do it before they can commit to it.

The book also made me realise that while in some areas I can be moderate with things; for example, I don’t overindulge with alcohol, in others it is easier for me to abstain completely because moderation is too hard; for example my addiction to Facebook or reading the celebrity gossip, I can’t be moderate, it’s all or nothing.  It made sense to me that by saying I’m not going to do something at all, it takes any decision making out of it.  If I said I’d be moderate, I’d be thinking, how much can I have, how many days a week can I do it etc.

I’m not finished the book yet and I haven’t quite grasped all of the concepts.  Typical me, I am speed reading it, so once I am finished I’m going to re-read it and take notes so that I can really try and make it work for me.  I feel hopeful that understanding how I tick will make it easier for me to work towards my goal of writing consistently and living a healthy lifestyle.

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