getting better at habits

Taking my camera with me everywhere is a habit. Lifting the viewfinder to my eye happens without thought. My eye travels the frame like a well-worn path. Pressing the shutter and seeing in this way is a part of who I am. My fingers find the buttons and dials by memory and I make adjustments with ease. All of this knowing is the result of practice. Photography is a joy.  I don’t have to do it, I get to do it.

I’m trying to develop some new habits.

Stretching and Yoga and Physical Therapy Corrective Exercises.

Because I have chronic back pain, I’m working with a physical therapist from Thrive PT. I can run and ride my bicycle and stoop and squat and move with ease. But ask me to stand still for more than 10 minutes or to walk slowly in a grocery store or a mall, and I’ll be looking for the nearest bench to sit and stretch. And it’s been difficult to find a comfortable position to sleep without pain. I take this very seriously. I do not want to take any pain medication and I don’t want to end up needing surgery. So exercise is a big priority for me. Stretching, yoga, slow and steady core work. These exercises are challenging and they need to be a habit.  

Eating Well.

My father and his mother both had adult onset diabetes and obesity runs in my family. I am at-risk for diabetes (and really, isn’t everyone at risk with the current standard American diet?). Over the last few years, I’ve managed to make good changes. No more soda or sugar in coffee. No more artificial sweeteners. I’ve said goodbye to salty snacks like chips and pretzels and crackers. Other than the occasional slice of whole grain bread, I can take a pass on the bread basket. But I still crave sugar, especially cookies or cake or pie or a muffin. And French fries make me weak in the knees. I’m participating in a Sugar Cleanse led by nutritionist Shelly Rose of Pure Roots Nutrition. Eating well needs to be a habit.

Some days I struggle with these new habits. I rationalize.

Just one cookie won’t hurt. (One cookie leads to many cookies.)

I’ll get to my exercises right after I answer this email. (I procrastinate until it’s too late.)

I don’t have a whole hour for a yoga class. (I fall back to my old friend perfectionism, discounting the value of smaller slices of work).

When I need to shore up my resolve, I turn to Leo Babauta and Zen Habits. Leo gives practical suggestions on how to get better at habits.  His techniques work.  Read the full story on his blog, but these are the key techniques.

Focus on just starting.  
Be completely with the habit.    
Pause when you start to rationalize.

Are you trying to develop new habits? If you are, I’m rooting for you!