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Choose Your Habits, Choose Your Life

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By nature, we are all creatures of habit. We instinctively adopt familiar routines for most activities. We eat about the same number of meals each day at more or less the same times. We have a regular pattern of sleeping unless it is perturbed by illness or shift work. Most everything we do is habitual.

You probably eat three meals each day, but why? Why not two or five? There is nothing particularly "natural" about our pattern of eating three meals each day; it is just a habit we share with most of those around us. Actually, a number of studies indicate that eating five smaller meals is more satisfying and healthier than eating three large ones.

You will always have habits — things you do regularly and without conscious thought — but you do have the ability to choose? Here's how:

1. Begin to pay attention to what you do, when you do it, and why you do it. One of the bad habits I fell into was eating a large dish of ice cream in the late evening. Obviously, ice cream was the "what," but the "when" was more than just in the evening. "When" was any time I felt stressed, hadn't had a satisfying dinner, or was bored. "Why" was mouth sensation, having something to do with my hands, and sometimes hunger.

2. Keep a journal of the "what", "when," and "why." Make an entry whenever you find yourself doing something that isn't really your choice. You will find you gain better insight into the "when" and "why" as you get more entries in your journal. Soon a pattern will emerge that can enable you to find healthy habits to replace the harmful ones.

3. Look for other activities that would satisfy the "when" and "why." A hot bath for stress, hard candy for mouth sensation, a good book for activity, and a warm bowl of soup for real hunger.

4. Make the undesirable activity difficult. Don't keep the cigarettes or ice cream in the house. When ice cream was in my own freezer it was hard to resist, but when eating a dish of super chocolate chunk required a trip to the convenience store, it was much easier to turn my attention to other activities and a low calorie snack, if any snack at all.

5. Begin new habits not only because you need them to replace unhealthy ones, but also because they are the things you always wanted to do, but couldn't find the time or money. That book club or yoga class makes a great substitute for the eating or smoking, and you can more than pay for your health club membership with what you save on cigarettes.

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About Jonathan Lockwood Huie

  • http://www.openmindrequired.com/blog Joanne of Open Mind Required

    Another important habit to break is that of believing everything you hear or passing on word of mouth items without discretion, such as “milk builds strong bones,” or “arthritis can’t be cured.”

    You can start with “Why do I believe this?” or “How do I know what I’ve just heard is true?”