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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

New Year, New Habits

New habits are formed by repeated thoughts and actions which, over time, form the creases in the brain which are called convolutions.
This is very convoluted. Image from here.
 Just kidding to all of that except the last phrase. However my unloveable brother in law* actually told me the above sentence, and he teaches high school health. He actually believes that one is born with a smooth, ridge-less brain until habits make bumps and lumps on the surface of your bean-like organ.
Those poor teenagers. He probably told them that new babies are found under cabbage leaves, too. 
If you're doing the whole habit thing for New Years, here are some tricks I found that have helped me:
To form a new habit:
- Do it the same time each day. It's easier to remember something if it's in a routine.
- Using a tying mechanism: tie reading your devotion to drinking your coffee, or putting wrinkle cream on (What? I'm 28! It's time to start saving what I've got left!) to taking your contacts out.
- Make it work with your schedule. If you want to start eating breakfast but you always wake up 5 minutes before you need to leave for work, you probably won't succeed unless you pick breakfasts you can take to go.
- Have plans and structure. Buy the ingredients for breakfast, set them out, etc.
- Remind yourself with post-it notes, alarms, and calenders for the first month. After that you're on your own but your habit should be...a habit!
To break a bad habit:
- List why the thing you do is revolting. Post the list somewhere conspicuous.
- Replace the bad habit with an innocuous habit. If you constantly crack your knuckles, bite the inside of your cheek instead.
- Punishment always works. This actually works for breaking a bad habit or forming a new one. I went through a super-lazy phase during my last year of pharmacy school, during which I should have been studying for my boards but more often was not. I denied myself my evening treat (I usually have a glass of wine, or a piece of candy, etc) unless I had studied.
- Tell someone about it. Others will hold you accountable and remind you when you slip up or start to slip up. I had a coworker who said "like" a lot. She asked me to remind her every time she said the work frivolously, and I found myself constantly interrupting her in the first week. By the second week, she had dropped the juvenile "like"s!
- Rearrange, reorganize. If your bad habit is related to a thing (you eat too many chips, you read junk magazines when you should be studying, you drink too much soda, you run up too much credit card debt), make the thing harder to get at. May people have put their credit cards in a block of ice, but this could be as simple as not refrigerating your soda. If you have to go to the time and trouble to chill it, you might not want it anymore.
This year, I really want to get into the habit of taking my glucosamine sulfate. I don't take a lot of vitamins, but this would help my cartilage out. Unfortunately I always forget! To help me remember, I'm tying it to my morning cup of coffee and adding it to my Blackberry calender.
Are you making or breaking any habits this year? 
* I keep this blog semi -secret so I can say things like that I not be disowned.


  1. "To think is to Create". I humbly submit that the most important element to forming a new habit is believing that you will do it in your heart-of-hearts. To make a true choice.

  2. Love what Chris said. Love this blog. Well worth my time reading blogs when I told myself to get off and do something else. :) I need to break the habit of checking my e-mail/blog as often as I do :)

  3. Hahaha you are hilarious! Hope the BIL never finds out about the blog :) I am going to start taking Beta Alanine before long runs...that's the only new habit I have going so far.

  4. No new habits, except trying not to eat so much - even healthy food is bad in mass quantities.

  5. I don't really have any resolutions planned... I want to get back on track with running but know that will happen when I start training for the DC 10 mile run at the end of January.

    Good list of suggestions, though! I think the accountability one is the best motivator for me!

  6. I used to snap a rubber band around my wrist whenever I bit my nails. It semi-worked because I don't bite them every day...but when I'm nervous or if one breaks, I bite them all. So I bite my nails like once a month now.