Creatures of HABIT

The power had been off for hours, yet every time I entered a room (carrying my flashlight) I still reached for the light switch. Whaaaa? 

Every time as I was walking through the darkness I would remind myself NOT to flip the switch. Yet 9 times out of 10 I still did it.  

A few weeks ago we had a major storm and a pole just a couple blocks up my street was struck by lightning and came down, power wires in the wet street and all. We had our power out for 4 days in humid 95 degree weather. July in the South! I can’t tell you how many times I tried to flip fans and lights on! By the third day I started to remember that flipping the light switch would NOT actually turn the light on. 

IMG_6046

I recently had my hot tub removed from behind my house. It sat right by my back door and I used it daily to set things on as I was working in the yard or whatever. It sat there for almost 13 years. After a couple weeks I still walk out the door and automatically reach out to the right as if I am going to set down whatever I am carrying. I’m slowly catching on. (HA!) 

Have you ever checked your mailbox on a holiday when you KNOW there is no mail delivery? You remind yourself as you drive home that there will be no mail…but somehow when you get there you drive or walk right up to that box and check?  

We do function on auto-pilot a lot. Habits can be a good thing because we don’t necessarily have to use our brain power to move through the motions of the day. However, habits, good or bad are very hard to change or break. Let us remember that our habits do not control us, but that we control our habits. So, good habits can be learned and bad habits unlearned.  

The American Journal of Psychology says that, “Old habits are hard to break and new habits are hard to form because the behavioral patterns we repeat are imprinted in our neural pathways, but it is possible to form new habits through repetition.” 

I have recently been focused on taking inventory of my daily habits. Are they working for me or against me? How much time am I wasting doing things that are inconsequential? Am I sitting too long at a time at my desk staring at a screen when I should be getting up to move every 20 to 30 minutes? Am I just being busy or am I moving toward my goals? Am I balancing work and play along with properly appropriating my time between myself, my family and my friends?  

All this can be tough to balance, but inventory of your routine can point out strengths and weaknesses. Some of the things we do “without thinking” can be very detrimental to our health, our wealth, and most importantly our relationships. How much time do we spend watching tv or Netflix? How much time do we spend playing games on our devices or on our social media caring about what other people are doing more than what is happening right in front of us? Do you know that a recent study shows that Americans touch their phones an average of 150 times per day? That means for many, it is a lot more. Much of that is necessary now that we do a lot of business and communication this way, but how much of it is wasted time? 

If you haven’t already, may I suggest that if you have an issue with a bad habit (or ten, lol) that you identify it (if more maybe take them one at a time) and begin to work daily to tackle it. Consciously take a hold of it and change it by repetition. Your innate capacity for habit forming will eventually kick in.  

It may be frustrating at first (I know this first-hand, ugh) but like that light switch that we flip when we walk into a room without even thinking, we will begin to form the habits that will help and not hinder us. We will be present and set our devices aside in lieu of the human company before us. We will eat more healthy choices. We will exercise, get more sleep, accomplish more.  

The better we control our habits, the more successful and effective we will be in life.  

“Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.” Romans 12:10-11

 

0

The Gratitude Diaries

 In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.          Thessalonians 5:18 (NAS)

Here we are coming off the week of Thanksgiving.  Much has been written about being thankful and grateful and not going too all-out crazy on black Friday.  We have been chided and challenged to keep a heart of gratitude all year long, not just the last Thursday of November.  So, how’s that working out for you?

I’ll admit that until this year, I rarely gave it a second thought.  The busyness of the holidays blows by with the force of a hurricane most years, with me left at the end of it all with messy hair and feeling like I’ve missed it. Like there should be something more fulfilling about this season.

The past year has found me on a journey of being more spiritually aware, and I have slowly moved toward being increasingly deliberate about my daily walk.  It’s a slow process, but there have been many rewards.  Striving for a heart of gratitude is part of the territory.

And so, a friend’s post on Instagram on November 1st that she was accepting a challenge to share something she was thankful for every day struck a chord with me.  I accepted the challenge, too.

It’s simple, really – for the 30 days of November, name one thing each day that you are thankful for & post a photo about that thing.  So simple.  But as it turns out, not easy.

It’s not that I couldn’t think of many things every day I’m thankful for – so coming up with just one was not difficult.  It was the planning to post something deliberate every day that got me.  Consistency and discipline are not my strong points, and this exercise brought that home.  Most days I was making my daily thankful post from the bathroom while brushing my teeth.  At midnight.  Not exactly the disciplined soul I pretend to be.

I began my month with a list.  I added to it daily.  It turns out, when you are deliberate in naming what you are thankful for you are naturally more aware of those things, which in turn makes you more thankful for them.  It’s a beautiful circle, really.

And so, I began posting.  My family, my pets, the beauty of the earth, even my washer and dryer made the list.   What I discovered was that each thing I was thankful for could not be adequately described in a few short sentences on Instagram, but I posted anyway and began thinking about writing a gratitude diary where I could expand on each item and get into the meat of why its existence was so important.

30Days.sunset                 30days.water

You know how they say it takes 21 days to form a new habit?  Try something for 30 days and it could even become a way of life.  What began as a fun way to post a new photo and clever phrase every day has become a daily exercise in gratitude awareness that I hope I can continue throughout the coming years.

I learned something about myself last month: it’s not that I am not thankful for these things all year long, it’s that I am just not deliberate in acknowledging them.  And so, I take them for granted.  I ignore their beauty and significance.  Worst of all, I was forgetting to thank God for those things, and I think maybe that makes Him a little sad.  I am surrounded by beauty and love and convenience.  Every. Single. Day.  It’s much too easy to take it all for granted.

I encourage you to try it.  Being thankful doesn’t end when the turkey leftovers are consumed and the Christmas decorations emerge from the attic.  It’s a daily exercise that will create in you a new outlook on the mundane.

If you are thankful for the technology that allows you to have clean clothes at home every day, you won’t think about the task of doing laundry in quite the same way again.  If you look at your family with eyes of gratitude for all the good they bring to your life instead of the annoying habits they possess, your love for them will grow.  Even the opportunity to have a fire in the fireplace on a cold night takes on new meaning.

So, what are you thankful for today?

 

0