Old habits die hard

I’ve been thinking about old habits, as well as new ones I’ve acquired. There’s this pseudo-scientific statement that everybody seems to have heard, that new habits are established in about 21 days. So if you do something consistently for 21 days, it becomes a habit. Well I have to say it takes me a LOT longer to develop any habit when I want to (although it seems quicker to develop habits I don’t want). Old habits or new habits, the difference seems to be this: if it’s a good habit, it’s hard to acquire and easy to lose; if it’s a bad one, it’s the other way round.

Why oh why?!

My old habit of looking to food to fix everything hasn’t died yet. I may not act on the impulse (unless it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner time) but there is an automated response in me. When I don’t feel well physically for whatever reason, be it the flu or a stomach pain, I automatically look to changing my food in order to fix it. What if there’s nothing wrong with my food? – that’s often an alien thought.

My new habit (in the process of acquiring!) of walking to work and back – about 20 minutes each way – is actually enjoyable but even so, I’m aware it will not become a habit for quite some time. I’ll do the lazy thing when I give myself the choice.

My old habit of always having to have something in my mouth – be it a cigarette (and I quit smoking over 9 years ago!), food, gum, drinks… – is still there and I find that I replace one thing with another, but never actually break the habit. Sometimes I can go without something in my mouth for a while, when I concentrate on doing that (and then I feel deprived), but most of the time there is something I’m sipping on. I drink a lot more water and approved liquids than most people. Not because I’m thirsty, or even hungry, but just because I want something in my mouth!

Then again, because I’m abstinent I get to work on these issues. If I wasn’t abstinent, the one and only habit I would be desperately trying to break would be the constant binge cycle. I’m not doing that to myself any more. So the other things, that would otherwise be buried amongst that despair because they’re really not that bad, come onto my radar and I become aware of them – working to eliminate them so that I continue to grow in contentment and serenity. Abstinence is only the beginning.


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