Poopers, I hope you went to see Iron Man 3: We Should Call this Pepper in theatres! Gwyneth delivered in a big way!
The first comic book movie of the year means that spring has sprung. I feel like this time of year, even more than New Years, is one of personal revelation. Kids and young adults are finishing their version of a year, and the rest of us are coming out of hibernation and enjoying the long-disappeared sun. Since the start of the year, when I had a bad run with a tooth infection, extraction, and the flu, I’ve been really unhealthy in my eating and exercise habits, so I’ve sought to change that. Modifying behavior is easier said than done, and it’s endlessly frustrating.
Two weeks ago, Goop covered habits, using some really helpful books and insights. That said, Gwynnie still managed to include a $129 life-tracking bracelet, so as always, I have compiled some suggestions a little more suited to the rest of us.
Peace and Pennies, Sam
Out with the Bad
Forming new habits generally requires breaking old ones. Identifying old behaviors requires a wake-up call of sorts – examining not only how often we perform habitual behaviors, but also why we perform them. It’s like the Joe’s say: knowing is half the battle. I’ve recently quit biting my nails. Because I’ve been doing it since I was in grade school, I’d never really thought about why I do it. Obviously, it is a nervous habit, as it often is for others. Part of it, I think, stems from wanting to obscure my mouth – I had really crooked teeth before getting braces and I looked like a chipmunk. It was a way of obscuring something I got teased for. Obviously, that is not the case now, thanks to kind parents and a skilled orthodontist. My big teeth are an asset and not a hindrance. By identifying why I felt the need to bite my nails, I was able to change the narrative and, subsequently, change my behavior. Now, I know biting my nails is unattractive, hurts my teeth, and is kinda germy. So hooray for being able to use my nail polish!
Alan Carr, in his book Stop Smoking Now covers this idea of a changing narrative when addressing one of the most gripping addictions – smoking. Instead of shaming the smoker, he encourages to examine how much better their life would be without it and how quickly their body will recover from the addiction, which, in turn, makes it seem like less of an impossibility. Even if smoking is not your problem, it’s a book worth reading if you’re stuck in any sort of lousy pattern. By changing your story – instead of thinking of a habit is something we need because it’s automatic – you can change your behavior.
In with the Good
Forming new habits is difficult. Not only are you forming new neural pathways, but, often, you’re changing something in your day-to-day life, forcing you off auto-pilot to get it learned. While good habits are rarely easy, there are ways to make them less of a challenge.
Goop touched on this when touting UP by Jawbone. Most of us, though, do not have the luxury of dropping $130 for an ugly bracelet. For that money, it needs to be super cute and less obtrusive. That being said, for almost any habit you want to form, there is a free app. For tracking my diet, I’ve been using MyFitnessPal. This app was recommended by a friend who has lost a lot of weight in a very healthy way, and in doing so, changed a lot of habits. Because of this, I have noticed that my sodium intake is terrifying. When I was trying to change my finances, I used the handy charts provided by my FPU class to track my spending and target areas where I had trouble. When I struggle with time management, I turn to my Google calendar and task bar. Writing down anything helps us to remember it, so it’s definitely effective in forming new habits until they become ingrained.
-Stop tempting yourself.
Since I’ve realized that salty snacks are my downfall, I’ve had to do the unthinkable: change my grocery list. I have had the most regimented list so that I can get in and out of the store in less than fifteen minutes and know almost exactly what I will spend. Yesterday, that all changed. Instead of my usual sea salt pita chips, Diner mac and cheese, wedge of brie, tortilla chips and hella-processed-fat-free-cheese-salsa-magic, I had to spend time in the produce section, trying to figure out fruits and veggies that are organic, cost-effective, and feel like snack foods. Instead of reaching for the chips when I want a snack, I now have only pomegranate seeds and Baby Jazz apples. I’ve forced my own hand.
-Start the timer.
There is a technique for building habits and controlling procrastination called Pomodoro. It started when a lazy guy set his mom’s tomato-shaped kitchen timer and regimented his free-time activities. Although I’ve only just learned it had a name, I did something similar when I wanted to start working out, drawing regularly, or writing consistently. I set a timer for twenty minutes, and I do twenty minutes of working out, twenty minutes of either drawing or writing, and twenty minutes of reading. For me, it’s my power-hour after work, and it’s helped me to be more disciplined. I’m inclined to continue writing or drawing longer if I know I only have to fill twenty minutes with no other expectations. By timing it, you can also build a schedule, which, in turn, allows whatever you’re starting to become second-nature.
-Keep It Visible
I keep my yoga mat and drawing supplies out where I can see them. They don’t go in a closet. They stare at me, mocking my laziness when they’re not in use. My own guilt is a powerful too, and Toy Story has convinced me that all objects are sentient and judging me when I’m not around. But seriously, even if you’re not slightly on the nutty side and you’re not riddled with guilt, just seeing some reminder of your new habit acts as a very helpful reminder that you have something healthy to do.
Check lists serve a similar purpose, allowing you a concrete sense of what you need to do. If I don’t write things out, I tend to get overwhelmed because what spinning around in my head has a tendency to grow and become monolithic. By just jotting down a few simple tasks, even if it’s just on an old receipt, it allows me to have a more realistic sense of how my day should go.
Here’s to an awesome week, a brave new world of fruits, veggies, and a lower sodium intake!