Developing and changing habits

August 1, 2014

We all have habits.  Some are ingrained in us from as long as we can remember – brushing our teeth, washing daily, cutting our nails. These are all habits that are formed and are a way of life from a young age.  There are other habits that develop as we grow older. Smoking, drinking alcohol, crossing our hands over when we drive (does anyone still stick to the 10-2 steering wheel rule?!) But what about those habits that have been developed over a relatively short term basis.  The ones that effect our everyday life….?


Let’s look at “Bob” for example, our fictional character for educational purposes. Below is Bob’s week-day routine…


Bob gets up at 5:30am every morning and jumps in the shower where he brushes his teeth.  He sits with his coffee and flicks through his phone, enjoying the peace whilst the rest of the family sleep. He drives 2 miles to the railway station car park, and walks the short distance to the platform.  Whilst he waits for his train he enjoys a breakfast Panini and a cappuccino from the coffee shop. On arrival at work he stops at the coffee machine to grab another coffee before sitting at his desk.


Mid-morning Bob sits in on a meeting where there is more coffee and a selection of pastries which he tucks into.


Bob lacks time for a proper lunch so heads to the work café and enjoys a main meal washed down with a soft drink.


The afternoon is a stressful one where he drinks several more coffees before heading home. Bob picks his car up and drives home to a hearty dinner and a few beers to wind down. Shattered, he retires to bed around 10pm.


We can break down Bob’s habits in the following way:


Routine – getting up at 5:30am, shower, teeth brushing, 10pm bedtime

Environmental – breakfast at the station platform, coffee machine drinks, meeting pastries, evening beers

Time – lunch at the canteen, driving to the station.


When trying to break our habits we can look at these three factors to determine where we can make changes.


“Bob” wants to make lifestyle changes so that he is healthier and fit enough to be able to spend active time with his children.  Therefore there are a number of habits we can look at changing.


His routine can be adapted. In this case Bob can still get up at 5:30am but instead of flicking through his phone, he can prepare his lunch for the day and make a quick breakfast. Once this is packed into his back-pack along with a flask of coffee, he can walk the two miles to the station where he can drink his coffee whilst waiting for the train. Once on the train he can then flick through his phone. If Bob then as a meeting at work he can indulge in the pastries guilt-free knowing that he has had some exercise and a healthy breakfast to boot before work.


If he lacks time at lunch, he can walk for 10 minutes to the local park, sit and have his prepared lunch, then walk back to the office and enjoy a coffee whilst he works in the afternoon.  He then has no choice but to walk from the train station back home, where he can enjoy a hearty dinner, but then after suggest that the children would like head out for a family bike-ride whilst it’s still light.


Now Bob is clearly fictional, but he is representative of many people in this country. So you can see where different habits can fit into the same lifestyles.  I am not suggesting that the habits are made all at once.  Far from it.  The two scenarios are very different and the habits within them could take months to change, but once they are there, they are just that – habits.  All it takes is one small change over a period of time and you are done!


What habits have you changed recently?


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