I’ve heard it and you’ve heard it too. Maybe you believe it, maybe you don’t. I do believe it though.
We are creatures of habit.
(…I think the opening paragraph is too dramatic for this post’s purpose. Anyway.)
If you’re a friend (or family), you’d know that I absolutely hate waking up in the morning. In fact, I used to wake up late, somewhere between nine-thirty to ten-thirty. On some occasions, I’d still be in bed at eleven, too lazy to kick out the blanket and start the day. Especially when it’s winter.
I know, I do have the privilege to be waking up whenever I want.
But in these past few months, I’ve consistently got up at eight-thirty in the morning. You might think that it’s still late, but it’s actually quite an achievement for me.
I now wake up to make breakfast for the husband before he goes to work—basically taking out the homemade bread from the freezer and popping it in the microwave for thirty seconds. Then I prepare his lunch (shoving fork and spoon into his lunch bag) and bid him goodbye. Then I go onto my routine: checking the plants, watering the plants, making coffee, and having breakfast while reading the Bible myself.
Oh, I’m so proud of myself.
(If you’re a night owl, you’d understand.)
It took me two months of forcing myself to kick the blanket every morning before I automatically, and voluntarily, get up from the bed. I have to remind myself that my coffee machine is waiting, that once I wake up I’d be able to reward myself with a cup of homemade latte. It kinda works, but I find that the biggest motivation to wake up is to take care of the plants. (I’m not even joking.) The later I water them, the stronger the sunlight and the faster the evaporation rate (or so I read), which means the water would just be gone with the wind instead of getting absorbed by the roots.
Yes, I’m really super into gardening right now.
Aaaaanddd there’s the husband—who would happily go to work without having any kind of breakfast, as he did in his bachelor days.
My ultimate goal is to wake up at seven every morning. But winter is coming, so probably I’d do just that in a few months…
Changing a habit is hard.
Probably you’re already an early riser and you can’t really connect with my story. But say you’ve been meaning to exercise more, or to incorporate five serves of veggies and two serves of fruits into your diet. Perhaps you’ve been wanting to sleep earlier. Guess what? It’s easier to just admit defeat and say, “My diet starts tomorrow,” and revert back to our old way of doing things.
Case in hand: I’ve been trying to take a walk around my neighbourhood for 45 minutes each day, and in the past three weeks I’ve only managed to do it four times. I used to be a member of the badminton team when I was in high school, but now my exercising habit basically *only* includes walking inside the shopping mall during the weekends. And I really detest the gym.
Improving sleep hygiene is also equally hard. Both Tjok and I sleep considerably late—on average we hit the bed at eleven-thirty. We’ve been meaning to sleep earlier, but somehow we always end up doing something that stretches our day even longer. I blame the screens (TV, iPad, iPhone, so on).
Thing is: we usually know deep down which of our way of doing things that aren’t good. We just choose to ignore it.
I know I have to exercise. I know that Tjok and I have to go to sleep earlier. But it’s easier to swap exercising time with reading a book, as I reassure myself that reading a book is good for me as well. It’s easier to just sleep later to finish the movie, or to steal ten more minutes of mindless scrolling on Instagram. And if you live on takeaways, well, it’s easier to buy delicious food instead of cooking them yourself—especially if you dislike cooking, washing up, and doing grocery shopping in general.
Our way of doing things is our comfort zone and while it may not be good for us, it’s familiar. It doesn’t require you to exert any kind of mental or physical energy to do it.
So upon my successful attempt to change my morning habit, here are a few takeaways for you to change yours:
1. Don’t start everything all at once.
I haven’t mastered the art of waking up at eight-thirty every morning before I jumped onto the walking around the neighbourhood thing. And yes, I sort of failed at forming any kind of daily exercise. Stick to one habit to change at a time. You’ll feel less miserable.
2. Don’t change things too drastically.
It just doesn’t work. If I set up the goal to wake up at seven straightaway while my usual waking up pattern is three hours later, I’d just fail every single day. Start small and reevaluate your habit every few weeks. You’ll get there eventually.
3. You have to have a higher, specific goal.
“Wanting to be healthier,” doesn’t cut it. “Losing a few kgs,” don’t work, if you don’t have a clear goal of when you want to achieve it or for what. Reward system doesn’t really help for the long term either (I can’t even wake up for coffee, and I LOVE coffee). But figure out why you want to change a certain habit. Like, why do you want to be healthy? Is it to have more energy during the day? To be less stressed? To live until a hundred and be able to play with your grandchildren when you’re fifty?
I choose to create a habit of always cooking vegs and eating fruits after dinner so Tjok and I can reduce all the associated health problems that come with eating unhealthily. I even convince him to bring lunch to work now, instead of him grabbing another burger from McDonald’s because it’s convenient. We even grow our own organic vegetables. Talk about dedication. Heh.
And as I mentioned before, I wake up earlier now to care for the plants (and the husband). Nothing changes a habit quite like this—when you know another living being is dependent on you, be it plants, pets, husbands, or babies, you’ll do what you can.
I still struggle with the daily exercise habit as I don’t, as yet, have a higher goal. I feel fairly healthy. I’m married—so I have less motivation to keep in some sort of shape. Guess I’ll start small.
So… is there a habit you’d like to change? Any tips to do so? Share your story!
Photo is used with Creative Commons Zero license.