The Art of Habits

As regular readers will know, I have experienced a collection of life changing experiences over the last few months. While, I’m finding peace with the actual events they have been matched with different coping strategies and one of them has been habit building. And yes, I know that I am very late to the party but hear me out on some of the habits I’ve been experimenting with.

What’s a habit?

We all have a bad habit, mine are endless but the idea of having a good habit failed to reach my attention up until now. Back in 2018, James Clear wrote Atomic Habits which became the holy grail for habit formation but what did Clear say is a habit? A habit is a behaviour that has been repeated enough times to become automatic. Small and unimportant changes do not add up directly, but they compound and lead to remarkable results if we stick to them consistently. Look at smokers, you have to gradually withdraw yourself through the simple act every day. Clear believes that in order to form a habit we must follow a process, and that process is as follows. Cue, there must be that trigger that gets us to act. There must be a craving which sits behind a desire of what we want to achieve. A response, which sits with the actual habit and then the reward, that delight when we complete our habit of choice. Theoretically that sounds like pure waffle but let me give you an example.

Let’s switch a light in a darkroom. The cue is walking into the room, our craving sits with what we want to see and that response is the flip. Durrr. We are then rewarded with our satisfaction of switching the light off.

What habits have you been working on, Ev?

Reducing screen time

Who has looked at their screen time in their settings to realise they’ve spent way too long scrolling at utter nonsense? Yep me too. Statistics suggest that we check their smartphones at least 157 times per day. Now, let’s own this narrative. Are you also guilty of doing that danger scroll at 10pm? Yep me too.

For me, establishing a night time routine has been critical in managing my ME and peripheral neuropathy, because the medication I take, makes me rather drowsiness leaving me redundant from 9pm onwards. But, I was reaching a vicious cycle where I was ready to hit the sack but spending so long scrolling the blue light that my drowsiness wore off and I lay tossing and turning with restless legs and nerve pain. Yet, I could never break that addiction.

I began by putting screen-time limits on the guilty offenders like TikTok and Instagram. It worked because it highlighted that co-dependency I had grown so fond of. I compare it to a smoker; you send them TikTok’s and Daily Mail articles about the damage smoking has on their health but they continue to ignore it. I had to change the habit. So, I decided to move my phone out of my bedroom. All the way downstairs, the big tip is move it in the further room of your house so if you’ve got an Apple watch you can’t get notifications. I go up to bed and I go incognito until 9AM. I can confirm the effort of moving is not worth the notifications. For me, the reward comes in my new found sleep, I’m increasing my quality of sleep and feeling like I am having a proper night-time routine. It’s only taken 20 years.

Increasing my protein intake

Last year, I began working with a personal trainer and along the way we have worked on increasing protein and movement in order to meet my goals. I always believed that suddenly increasing protein would mean I’d bulk out looking like I’m competing in a bodybuilder competition. The reality is, women should be increasing their protein intake and not fearing it. I blame diet culture. Through our work I’ve seen first-hand the benefit of making small changes in my life; one of these changes involved increasing my protein at regular meal times, specifically breakfast. The benefit of high a protein breakfast also helps to manage blood sugars and energy levels – maintaining my energy levels is critical in managing my ME.

Daily Walk

When I was in the peak of my relapse, I realised that I had taken the simple art of walking for granted. Regular walks and movement as a whole can make such a huge difference in our physical and mental wellbeing. Did you know that walking mental alertness and positive mood?

How many of you had a step count in your series of New Year’s Resolution? Gotcha. The reality is, we set these goals with the best intentions but we expect to go from walking to raining. It’s very similar to marathon training, you wouldn’t go from running once to suddenly applying to run a marathon.

So, for me to make this habit a regular, I ignored my step count and distance. I went out every day, sometimes just round the block to get my stamina back having been unable to walk during the height of my relapse. I began indulging in podcasts and audiobooks because they served to be a fantastic backdrop to my walking.

What difference have you seen since embarking on these habits?

I get deep satisfaction in ticking things off my to-do-list and so I have transferred this satisfaction in with my habits. So, going for a walk, is a major tick box, reducing screen-time and walking gives me that incentive to repeat it. The more we do, the greater the reward.

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