This week I was reminded of how hard it is to break a habit. And it’s all thanks to my friends at Apple.
I’ve attempted to swipe to the right to access my phone at least 100 times in the last week. This simple gesture, something I’ve executed dozens of times each day for many months, worked—until I downloaded the new iPhone operating system. And suddenly, without warning, a swipe to the right was replaced by a click of the home button. I’m reminded of my mistake every time I attempt the swipe, and yet still I can’t seem to make the change. Somewhere between buying my phone months ago and last week, unbeknownst to me, I created a habit.
No, this habit is not going to make or break my overall wellbeing. But it did make painfully clear how hard it can be to make a simple change. I say it at the end of my newsletter each week— “Make A Change Today.” I wholeheartedly believe every person has the ability to change. But at times, I forget how easy it is form a bad habit and how hard it is to turn the bad into good.
I spend a lot of time researching, discussing, and writing about how habits define our wellness. “Bad” habits, like unconscious eating, poor posture, and spending an extra hour at work rather than going out with friends or going home to be with family, often develop unintentionally. It seems like they just happen. Conversely, “good” habits, like meal planning a week ahead, daily exercise, and taking time to rest and decompress, are conscious decisions. You make them happen.
My go-to advice is to “crowd out” the bad with the good. Fostering good habits takes time and thought, but leaves little and eventually no room for the bad habits. This form of positive reinforcement sounds simple enough and, in my experience, it works. But what happens when you don’t even realize you have a habit? That was my lesson this week—sometimes habits just creep up on you.
Habits determine our quality of life. To help identify the “bad” and amplify the good, the first step is to connect to and become more aware of your internal and external environments. So, take a moment this week to pause. It doesn’t necessarily require coming to a full stop—just slow down enough to notice your body, your space, and the environment around you. If slowing down is a challenge, then try focusing attention on your breath. Set the timer on your clock or your phone for three minutes, place both hands on your belly and sense the rise and fall of your belly as you breathe naturally. At the end of the three minutes, ask yourself what you need to improve your life experience—identify the obstacles. Now, choose just one action or one shift in focus that will help you to reach that goal. Focus on that one action this week and, over time, watch that bad habit begin to get crowded out. Make that change today!