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Changing Habits


“The more you fight a feeling, the more it controls you. Don’t resist it, replace it.” – Rick Warren

We are what we do every day. Our human existence is based on our habits.

Even our thoughts are habitual. Studies say that 95% of the thoughts that fill our minds and shape the way we see the world are the same thoughts we had yesterday and the day before that.

Unfortunately, habits have two faces: positive and negative. It’s therefore important to watch, examine, build, or change our habits according to our values and to our benefit.

If we fail to do this, our habits will break us.

Building Minimalist Habits

Writer Christy King talks about a habit loop in Building Minimalist Habits: “This loop consists of a cue, a routine and a reward. To substitute a new habit for an old one, you first describe the loop.”

According to Christy, the routine is the bad habit. It could be eating junk food, mindlessly watching TV, or shopping when you don’t need anything.

The reward is the habit to replace the routine.

Once the routine and reward is identified, the cue should be understood.

Again coming from the article, jot down the following when discovering the cue:

  • Where are you?
  • What time is it?
  • What’s your emotional state?
  • Is anyone else around? Who?
  • What happened just before you got the urge?

Coffee-drinking Habit

Just recently, I tried refining my coffee-drinking habit using this principle.

For years I’ve been drinking three cups a day. In the morning, at lunch break, and before sleeping.

For all the love I have for coffee, it suddenly dawned to me that I should cut down to a cup a day, or a couple of cups a week, if I want to improve my health. (I’m sorry, I usually drink instant coffee.)

I’ve been pre-diabetic for three years now, and I sure don’t want to cross that line.

Routine: Too much coffee-drinking.

Objective: Cut it down to once a day. (Only at lunch)

Reward: running in the morning; reading and writing in the evening.

Notes:

  • Where are you? Morning, at home; lunch, at work; evening, at home.
  • What time is it? 6:00am; 12:45pm; 10:00pm.
  • What’s your emotional state? Anxious to relax (irony).
  • Is anyone else around? Who? Morning, alone; lunch, with friends; evening, with my wife.
  • What happened just before you got the urge? Morning, just woke up; lunch, stressed at work; evening, stressed at work.
Success Story

The experiment was a success on its first week!

For the second week, I changed the reward into reading and writing in the morning and spending time and watching movies with my family in the evening.

I plan to revise again entering the third week, experimenting on what’s best for me, then I’ll stick to it.

Now, I only drink coffee once a day, before lunch, and sometimes no coffee at all!

How to Change Habits

Here are a few tips on how I did it:

1. Renewed my mind and just started. It began with my thoughts. The mind is like a locomotive driving the whole train. I just took the first step, got up from bed, laced on my shoes, went on and just started to run. And tried to be mindful in every step.

2. Started small. The first day, I ran for only 2 kilometers, and gradually increased a kilometer a day. That way, my muscles didn’t become very sore, and I enjoyed the activity.

3. Made a plan and log progress. I’m a sucker for making plans and logging my successes. I have a daily log on what I eat, exercise, wardrobe, meditation, and recently coffee-drinking! I wanted to track down if I’m meeting my objectives on why I set a habit.

4. Enjoyed the habit. It’s basic: we won’t last very long if we don’t enjoy what we are doing. I just try to be as mindful as I can through each activity. I savor the aroma and taste of coffee each time I drink it. I notice my heart beat while I run. I let go of all worries while meditating. It’s liberating when you are in the moment.

5. Became consistent. As in all things worthwhile, effort is important. Nothing beautiful comes easy. I just try my best to be as consistent as possible. If I miss a day, which sometimes I do, I don’t make it an excuse to miss again the next day.