31-Day Blog Challenge! Day 9: My Worst Habits

Day 9: My Worst Habits

I LOVE LOVE LOVE the topic of habits!

You see, I really love neuroscience, and the hot topic right this minute is HABITS.

In 1892, William James wrote: “All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits.” (Whoa, was Mr. James ahead of his time!)

In The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg (2012), he writes:

“Most of the choices we make each day may feel like the products of well-considered decision making, but they’re not. They’re habits.

“And though each habit means relatively little on its own, over time, the meals we order, what we say to our kids each night, whether we save or spend, how often we exercise, and the way we organize our thoughts and work routines have enormous impacts on our health, productivity, financial security, and happiness.”

Duhigg goes on to define habits: “(Habits are) the choices that all of us deliberately make at some point, and then stop thinking about but continue doing, often every day. Then we stopped making a choice, and the behavior became automatic.

“These habits are a natural consequence of our neurology. And by understanding how it happens, you can rebuild those patterns in whichever way you choose.”

How amazing is that? And it’s true…. (Shameless plug: I live by this in my physical therapy practice, and it works! Come see my at MovePT to learn more.)

Okay, so a few of mine:

1. I am a knuckle cracker. Have been since the beginning of time. Is it boredom? Is it nerves? Is it some chemical or physical release? I don’t really know…

cracking knuckles

Here I am, absentmindedly doing my thing on an airplane…

 

2. I often interrupt. It only comes from a place of social engagement – I am so in to you that I suspect I am understanding you – but I really dislike this social HABIT.

The cool thing is that I can change it with some intentional effort.

From Charles Duhigg: “First, find a simple and obvious cue.” (Someone else is talking, and you know, it’s interesting…)

“Second, clearly define the rewards.” (Truly listening creates connection on an even deeper level…)

Then, I’ve got to use AWARENESS to make a different choice; if I practice awareness and recognize when I am interrupting, I can actually change my neural chemistry and learn how to be a better listener.

So cool.

3. I get anxiety at about 3:00am.

Boo!!!!!!!

This is a habit that I used to think was some outside thing happening to me. As I learn more, I am aware that my choices and habits contribute to nighttime anxiety. Dang it!!

The result: I have been working on this one intensely.

First, I went to a Neuroscience of Yoga talk by Sarasvati Hewitt and learned that the hormones that contribute to anxiety (cortisol, adrenaline, norepinephrine…) have a half life of 3-6 minutes. That means that if I can remind myself that my hormones are raging, I can talk myself down and know that the hormones will clear my system in 3-6 minutes. I can short-circuit the habit of letting these hormones take over by understanding what is happening on a chemistry level.

Next, I met with an amazing Naturopath, Dr. Nadene Neale of NuHealth, and learned that my system doesn’t dig on wheat, sugar, or dairy. Without going on too long, this has CHANGED MY LIFE and had a profound effect on my anxiety. (I’ve also lost 20 pounds, but who’s counting…?)

Now that I know this, though, the challenge becomes sticking with the new eating habits to keep my system happy and primed for restorative sleep.

Finally, I have learned to be okay with being awake in the middle of the night. If I go to bed on time, I can afford the time to read in the wee hours and not get so hung up on the idea that I should be sleeping. Truth is, from an anthropological perspective, it’s okay to wake up in the middle of the night. I don’t have to stress, it’s just a HABIT.

Habits. Patterns. Neuroscience. Ohhhhh how I love this stuff. I can change, and so can you…

What are your habits, friends?

Up next: My Best Physical Feature. I’ll keep you guessing ’til tomorrow.

xoxo

Jeni Gall

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Coincidentally, before being prompted to write this post, I was stoked to have this great read for my 12.20.15 flight to Minneapolis.


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