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Habits...Good or Bad

Maybe some habits are good in the short term, but bad in the long term. Others may be difficult in the short term and good in the long term. 


There must be positive and negative effects from all habits, or we wouldn’t keep them.  Let’s take the classic “bad” habit of smoking and compare it to the “good” habit of exercising.  Smoking has positive short-term effects such as reduced appetite, reduced tension, and satisfaction of the nicotine craving.  Smoking’s most serious negative effects are long-term such as high cancer and heart disease risk. 

Exercise is quite the opposite.  You really don’t see results for the first few weeks or even months and most of the benefits of health and longevity are years away.  You may get some short-term positive effects like knowing you are doing something good for your body.

One way to combat this short term/long term reward imbalance is to think about being kind to your future self.  Think about the future often.  Visualize how you want your future to look.

I have heard many times about how long it takes to create a habit.  This may be different for different habits and for different people, but you know it is a habit when you break the habit for whatever reason, and it doesn’t feel like you.

How to create new habits? Let’s try to create a habit of walking three times a week.

·         This is an example.  Pick something you think you would love.  Maybe think back to something you enjoyed but haven’t done in years.  It doesn’t need to be exercise.  It could be doing something creative or spending time in nature.  There are a lot of good choices.

·         Take small bites.  A little bit at a time.  Ridiculously small if that helps.  If you want to create the habit of walking 3 times a week, create that habit and don’t worry about how fast or far you go for a while.  If you are short on time then walk for ten minutes.

·         Be specific about when you are going to go for a walk.  For example, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday after work and before supper.

·         Try not to miss, but here is the important part - never miss two in a row.

·         Create an identity.  You are not someone who walks, you are a walker, not someone who plays guitar, but a guitar player. You are creative. You are introspective. You are active. You are healthy.


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