The habits that matter to me.
Tuesday, December 31, 2019
I had planned a morning jog, but my son called me into his room 10 minutes before my alarm was supposed to go off, and by the time he had settled, it was too late to get out for my run.
This is now a longstanding issue. I have the best of intentions that then get thwarted by my responsibilities as mum, wife, or employee.
So, I went downstairs and my cat realised that I was all alone and quite literally jumped at the opportunity to sit on my lap for an uninterrupted cuddle. As we have been away for Christmas, I gave him this chance and began watching you tube videos.
I found my way to a video about developing habits and the experience this particular blogger had by trying a new habit every 30 days. It was a great video because it was quite honest about the reality of trying something like that, and also, about the fact that not every habit is for everyone. We all have our 'life changing' activities, but these are not the same for everyone.
This really resonated with me - he was saying, try a new habit, but if you find it doesn't work, that is okay. Perhaps that is what I am working on in this new year: being okay with failure, or not meeting my goals and expectations. Because, quite frankly, I'm constantly not meeting them, but getting more bogged down with the emotional weight of feeling bad about that, than simply accepting that something did not turn out the way that I wanted it to, and then moving on.
It got me to thinking about the habits in my life that truly have been life-changing. And, I think that there are probably four: writing in a gratitude journal, prayer / meditation, jogging, and learning to see food as sustenance, rather than an emotional support.
I've noticed that when I take time to write down five things I'm grateful for in a day, there is a shift in my thinking. I notice it when I look back at when big changes happened in my life and see that at that time, I was also actively writing what I was grateful for every day. For the first half of 2019, I did just that. I also managed to get a post-doctoral position in May. Now, this is an observation - there are a million factors that led to me getting the post-doctoral position, quite probably that it was the right position for me at the right time, and also the fact that I had applied for so many positions by this point that one was sure to work out. But, there is also a chance that mentally, I was able to reach out for the position due to focusing on the good in my days. As I am prone to depression, this has to be active habit in my days.
Prayer and/or meditation also means many different things to people, so I don't want to dwell on this on such a public forum, only to say, that when I take time to consider the bigger picture (whatever that means to you) I feel a little less overwhelmed by life. And I notice a difference when I do this regularly.
I write about jogging a lot. This was a tough year because jogging was lacking due to injury and now, due to time constraints. But, I know that when I have a regular routine for this, I just feel happier. On reflection, I realise that I need to have more than one exercise habit, as I am getting older, and there is a chance more injuries will come into play. Jogging, for me, is about achieving goals, such as a particular distance, or running at a certain pace, and, has always been something that is purely for me. It is my time alone, out in nature, enjoying the regular rhythm of my body's movement. I miss it when it's not there, and now I have to work it in to a work schedule that involves a lot of regular travel.
Finally, I wasn't sure how to put this into words. I don't know if it is a habit or an attitude, but it was a way of thinking that was once very powerful to me. I learned that food is not a way of managing the emotions in my life. I learned that my identity is not determined by what I am eating - like I'm a good person because I ate well today, or I'm a bad person because I ate an entire slab of chocolate. It was just a case of monitoring what went into my mouth and making sure the numbers added up. I guess food became something objective, rather than subjective. This really helped me to manage my eating well.
Many of these habits have fallen to the wayside by what has been the most remarkable and busy year. The shift in our lives to make space for my work has left us all with very little time to do much else. It was a sudden change and all the balls have dropped!
I got very sick at the beginning of this month and lost a lot of weight as a result. Some of the weight has come back, but I feel I have been given a little respite from the ever increasing numbers on the scale. Because I couldn't eat because I was so sick, I remembered how little I need to eat, and also, how possible it is to get by without eating all the time. It was a positive reminder.
Then, I have two weeks off. We returned to Ireland for a few days, which was nice. We got to catch up with our friends and enjoy being back in a place that we know so well. We also got to relax. That was the best part. I could feel my mind calming down, and it was very good.
I come back to a very imperfect life. I see just how much emotional eating I do, and I'm at a loss at how to manage this. I don't know how to get back to where I was in this area of my life. The routine of tracking my food and keeping within a set of numbers seems almost impossible, now. I realise my life is very different from when I first tracked calories and I have to work out how to stay aware of what I am eating, and how to stop reaching for food first when I simply cannot cope with all the emotions that I am feeling.
But, this morning's unusual start, reminded me to think about the habits I already have / had that have worked well for me, and that, rather than trying to introduce a million new habits suggested by other people, that perhaps I think about the ones that really work for me.
Within this, though, I need to recognise that with the amount of travel I do now, and the fact that I have a young child to look after and a husband that I truly value, I will not be able to meet the expectations of a rigid exercise regime, or daily gratitude writing, or even daily prayer / meditation. I think I have to be happy with doing some of these things, some of the time. I have to be happy with the imperfection of my life.