Can I just whinge for a moment about how hard it is to get back into a habit? I can? Oh. Great. Thanks. O:)
There’s this piece of folk wisdom I remember learning sometime in highschool about habits. It takes three months to make one, and only three days to break one, so the wisdom goes. Personally, I don’t know about that. Sometimes it only takes a day or two to break a habit – and some habits take far longer than three months to form.
Eating, for example. The diet I have to be on right now is complex and extremely limited, but can be broken down essentially to two things: 1) no added sugar in any form and nothing with more than about 10% natural sugars, and 2) no moulds of any kind, which includes fungi like mushrooms, ‘safe’ moulds found on cheeses and bruised fruit, anything brewed/fermented like vinegar or soy products, and anything with yeast. Like I said; pretty limiting.
I can’t really remember what I expected when I first started on it, how long I thought it might take until I got used to it, but now, six months in, I can tell you it still isn’t a habit. My first instinct is still to reach for the chocolate-coated sultanas on the bench leftover from Christmas for a snack, or to ponder a quick sandwich for lunch. I can feed myself now without stressing too much about what to eat, but it’s certainly not a habit.
Checking my email? That’s a habit. My first instinct when I switch on the computer is to open firefox and click on my gmail shortcut. Literally. I have to stop and think about it if I want to do something else. (Email addict? Me? Never...)
So, after not really writing for several months now, how do I go about getting back in the habit? I used to have a process that told my brain it was time to write, a way or a place I’d sit in, things I’d have open on the computer, a mindset. All of that is gone, faded into distant memory with disuse. And when I sit at the computer, I’m more likely to spend an hour or so thinking, “I should write”, than actually writing anything. (Besides, there are EMAILS to read! O:))
I googled ‘characteristics of a habit’, wondering if anything would useful would appear to solve my problem for me (which is either terribly lazy, or terribly postmodern – or perhaps both) and the only article that wasn’t about smoking or chemicals was this one. It suggests that there are three characteristics of a habit: 1) You feel weird not doing it. 2) It’s second nature. 3) Other people notice you doing it.
Well, 1) I already feel weird for not writing, and 2) I doubt I can magically make it second nature without just doing it already. Not much help there. But 3) might have something: other people notice.
Okay, so I’m not necessarily going to hang a big sign over my head to say “I’m writing!!1!!”, but what if I approach it the other way? What if I enlist someone to watch for me writing, so they can tell me when they notice I’m not doing it?
Really, all I’m talking about it accountability. Once upon a time, I used livejournal for that. And since finding one person committed enough to bug me every single day about whether I’ve written or not is a bit of an ask for that person, maybe the blog’s the way to do it.
So I’m going to revive the livejournal again. Feel free to cheer me on or just laugh at my pathetic attempts (either works), and if you’d like to join me in reforming a habit – or even just forming a new one – let us all know in the comments here, or you can comment along with me every day on the livejournal blog :)
Any other handy tips for forming habits?