Bad habits die hard…good ones start even harder


I wish knowing what you should do was as helpful as doing it. I know what a healthy slender person eats. I know the traps to avoid. I know the counterparts to many unhealthy behaviors. I know how to exercise appropriately. I know the needed actions to lower cholesterol, to improve BMI, to improve balance, muscle tone, and core body strength. I know I should floss daily and brush at least twice a day.

Knowing isn’t enough. Knowing what to do and how to do it doesn’t make it happen. Practice makes it happen. Intent makes it happen, until it becomes ingrained as a habit.  I don’t know what happened to my grooming habits.  I remember as a child the required morning and nightly tooth care, the daily bedmaking, the weekly put your room in order.  Somehow I didn’t take that with me – at least not permanently, when I left home.  Perhaps as I grew to reject the shame and chaos of my childhood, I also set aside the good things.  About 8 years ago,  in my mid 50’s, I was replacing my eyeglass lenses because the old ones were to0 scratched. The optician recommended I clean them each day with warmwater and liquid soap. I complained that was hard to remember. He suggested, ” Just wash them as often as you floss your teeth.” If I washed my glasses as often as I flossed my teeth,  I’d miss out on lots of reading!

I always floss the day I go to the dentist. I remember seing a cartoon strip where the character shows up at the dentist with small bandaids crossed all across his gums.  The dentist remarks, “Adam, I see you flossed this morning!”  I don’t think we fool our dentist or her hygienest.  We only fool ourselves.  I always report in questionnaires that I floss – ashamed to admit I don’t follow this simple effective dental hygiene protocol.   I’ll do it for a week or two – always after a cleaning. I like the feel of those clean teeth with minimized plaque. But one session missed is usually enough to revert to the old default of neglect and drop the new pattern of self care.

Sometimes to carry out a healthy regimen, I need to pretend I’m caring for someone else.  If this person in the mirror were my child, I’d want her to develop the habit of brushing and flossing routinely; of always using sunscreen; of good sleep habits; of making healthy choices when eating and exercising.  I’d be firm but loving- helping her develop the habits and self discipline as a way to care for herself . And I’d want to do it without shaming or bullying. That’s not usually how I talk to myself.

Most, if not all child rearing practices encourage the development of good habits and routines. I remember all the parenting and child psych training about establishing routines, bedtime, meal time, after-school homework, etc..  If a child has poor sleep patterns, the solution is to develop routines that link activities (bath, bed, story, light out)  repeated consistently over time. The child learns and integrates the pattern.  The mind associates one step wit the next, and a habit is formed. Routines create predictability.  Predictability provides a sense of safety and reduces anxiety. Routines soothe us. They allow us to relax, to let go. They give us a consistent platform from which to start or end the day.  They are built with repetition, over time.

I’m planning on introducing some new simple routines. There are several tasks I would like to convert to habits.  I know I’m capable of developing habits – I have several that are not very helpful!

Take care, be well –

*******

Remember, this forum is not intended to be therapy.  I have no way to view your body language, hear your tone of voice, or see if your words and your displayed emotions are matching.  These are essential to effective communication and great tools for the therapist (and for the consumer when reversed.) I will attempt to be as helpful as I can. I will refer you the best I can to needed services. Even though I will not be your therapist, I am a health care professional bound by law and ethics to act to protect persons from harm. I am required to report my concerns of  harm to self or others, and suspected abuse of children and vulnerable adults.  I am located and providing these services in Washington State.

Again, I am open to communicating directly with you here.  If you have questions or concerns, please leave a comment. I will attempt to address the content if I can.

2 Comments

Filed under behavior, change, counseling, emotional healing, habits, healing, mental health, patterns, Penny Milczewski, psychotherapy, Uncategorized, wellbeing

2 responses to “Bad habits die hard…good ones start even harder

  1. Teresa Perret

    Penny I bought a Water Pik to clean around dental implants that flossing wasn’t working on and it’s been so good we’re getting Bob one. Between that and the Sonicare toothbrush the dental hygienist calls me her star patient (and you know i love that!)

    • Gere Winc

      I was at a seminar many years ago, given by the Franklin Planner people (long before iphones and PDA’s) who said, “It takes 21days in a row to create a habit.” The person didn’t say how many do-over’s count!! LOL!!

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