Flexibility and Habits

I have been learning a lot about habit formation lately. It seems like it may be the key for me in putting my self-care and healthy habits front and center. Although, it may not seem to make sense, I am learning that some flexibility is required when creating habits. Let me explain what I mean.

A couple of the habits I am working on are daily meditation and daily physical activity. When it comes to my meditation practice, it has come along pretty easily, this time. Past attempts have not been as successful. I believe this to what I have learned about habit formation.

From my understanding there are 3 main parts to a habit. The trigger, the habit, and the reward. The trigger is the thing that lets your subconscious know it is time to do the habit. The reward is what you get for preforming the habit. When it comes to my meditation habit, my trigger is when I wake up in the morning. I go to my designated meditation space, light my meditation candle (a reward) and mediate for 20 minutes. At the end of my mediation, I track my mediation in my Adidas running app. (Side note: I love this app, it will track all kinds of activities and allows for live tracking as well as manual entries.) Tracking my meditation in the app is my reward. From what I have learned instant rewards are best. If we have to wait too long for a reward our brains won’t associate them with the habit.

So where does flexibility fit in? In order to create a habit you must do it consistently. I can’t say, “I don’t feel well” or “conditions are not perfect”, I have to find a way to get it done. For example: when I travel for work, I do not have my designated space or my candle with me. I have to allow for flexibility in my practice. I meditate with out theses things.

As I have mentioned in previous blogs I am working towards running a 5k. I am using the C25K app from Zenlabs. I love this app! It works great. I prefer to run outside. The fresh air and beautiful scenery are a part of my reward for running. This past week it has been cold and icy. I have severe osteoporosis and can’t afford to slip and fall on the ice. This past week I had to do my running on a treadmill. Running on a treadmill and running outside are not even close to the same experience. I am dedicated to creating a habit of daily activity and training towards the more far off reward of running a 5k again. I have to allow for the flexibility of running inside on a treadmill some days.

Another thing I have learned about habits, is that they are easier when stacked, habit on top on habit. For example: trigger – I wake up, habit – mediation, habit – run or yoga, habit – shower, habit – brush teeth, and then it is time to go to work. By stacking habits I am gaining momentum from things that I am doing anyway. When I choose a hike as my daily activity, I can’t get that done in the morning before work. It has to wait till the workday is done. I can not benefit from my morning habit stack. In this way, I must also allow for flexibility that on the days I am going to hike, it will not happen at the same time as my running or yoga will.

What healthy or self-care activities would you like to add to your life? What existing habits could you stack them onto? Where can you see the need for flexibility and grace in you habit formation? What will you choose as rewards?

Thank you for reading my blog today! May you develop many helpful habits that support you taking care of yourself.

Books to learn more about habit formation:

Atomic Habits by James Clear

Healthy as F*ck by Oonagh Duncan

Hello Habits by Fumio Sasaki

Health – Don’t Take It for Granted

It is so easy when you are healthy to think you will always be so. I have been lucky enough to live a life where I took my health for granted, most of the time. After two family members where hospitalized 8 month apart, to the day, I am given a wake up call as to the importance of appreciating and taking care of your health.

The morning of the 5th day, in the year I had dubbed “The Year of Health”, my husband woke up with chest pain. I had no idea the events that were about to begin unfolding. My husband is a healthy, active man. We hike, he shovels snow for 8 houses in the winter, takes the stairs over the elevator and is focused about getting his 10,000 steps a day. I never imagined that under the surface this insidious disease was slowly but continually preparing to change our lives.

What I thought would be a trip to the ER to “be safe rather than sorry” turned our world upside. My 50 year old husband had had a heart attack. We kept our chins up; positive thoughts bring about positive results. We were sure that, during the procedure to assess what was going on with the vessels that supply blood to the heart, the doctors would be able to put stents in to repair the blockages. Once again we were shocked. The amount of disease that was found requires a quadruple bypass to repair. Family history was one of the factors, which was shared, as a reason why there would be this level of disease in a man this age.

As we await his surgery, I think how can this be true of my strong and active husband. I just always took it for granted that we would both remain healthy and be able to continue our active lifestyle, traveling, hiking, camping, and kayaking. I know that this surgery is a second chance. I know that it gives us a chance to start again. He will have new healthy vessels on his heart. Though we can not change the family history, we can work together through diet and exercise to make modification that will help to keep this disease at bay. Making these adjustments in our lifestyle will be our way of saying, “Thank you” everyday for our health. Appreciating, whatever level of health we currently have and continually striving to reach the next level of health available to us. Whatever that may be.

I am grateful for the health we have today. I am grateful for the even better level of health we will have in the future. I will never again take my health or that of my family for granted.

May you appreciate your health, at whatever level it is at. I wish you every happiness. I love you!

2020: The Year of Health

I may sound cliche to start the new year focused on health and it certainly is not new for me, but it is different this time. Let me tell you why.

In the past my focus was to loose weight. I would make a New Year’s resolution to exercise and get thin but the motivation was really vanity. I didn’t understand how powerful mind, body and spirit wellness was back then. The resolution would last 2, maybe 3 months and then I would fade back into my old patterns of behavior. Today I no longer make resolutions; instead I make a list of new year’s manifestations. These manifestation can be anything I want to come into my life in the new year. I decided 2020 would be a year of health.

My year of health manifestation list has a lofty number of health related items I want to enhance my life. They are mind, body, and spirit related, for one cannot successfully be well without balance in all these areas.

It is day 4 in my year of health and I already feel a shift in my mood. I find myself making healthy decisions and I keep slowly incorporating items to bring about overall wellness.

On Jan 1st, I started the day hungover from a New Year’s Eve party I attended. I find this very embarrassing to admit to. So, my first healthy initiatives were to give up alcohol and sugar. Next I went back to intermittent fasting. This is an eating strategy that limits the time you can eat during the day. It has many health benefits but my primary use of it is weight loss. I have gained about 30 pounds in the last 4 years and it is affecting my energy level and ability to do things. Losing weight is not about vanity for me this time. It is about being comfortable hiking, having the energy to kayak and reclaiming my connection with my body as a divine being.

Then I decided to start tracking what I eat. This is about mindfulness. So now I know what I am putting into my body and why. I am using the “My Fitness Pal” app to do so; although there are so many apps that can help you with it. I have anemia, so it helps me track my iron intake, something that is important for me as a pescatarian. I also find that tracking what I eat, makes me less likely to do the mindless noshing that can occur when I am bored.

Yesterday I decided to start drinking 1/2 my body weight in ounces of water. I feel this is helping purify my body from all the toxic things I have put into her in the past. Also, yesterday I recommitted to moving my body. Getting at least 10,000 steps a day. I even started running a little again. I plan to improve my fitness condition in order to participate in 5K events. I really enjoyed these in the past. My daughter, Liz, and I have also done a couple 1/2 marathons together and we are toying with the idea of committing to do another one of these.

Today I am starting on my commitment of “52 Hikes” during 2020. I have seen others make a commitment to this in the past, but never got on board because of the frozen tundra where I live. I know I feel better when I get outside and be “in” nature, so this is another part of the mind and spirit commitment for me.

My husband and I continue our pursuit towards financial wellness. Yoga and meditation are on my list of items to incorporate. I find that adding (a little) something new daily is helping me stay motivated and not feel overwhelmed. I’m just slowly incorporating, the items I want, into my year of wellness.

I know it is only day 4 but I already feel clearer and  more upbeat. I am more connected with my body and the aches and pains are starting to subside. I have lost 4 pounds and even reclaimed my right to be a runner.

Would you like to join me on my journey into the year of health?

Come along! It won’t always be easy but it will be totally worth it!

I love you! May your year bring you every happiness.