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Breaking Habits

Habits are tricky. They tend to take over when we aren’t paying attention, for good or worse. To make things even more difficult, habits may become so ingrained that we lose all flexibility in responding to events.

For instance, take mealtimes. I’m very much in the habit of eating early, I get up a little before six and eat within the hour, with lunch usually between 11:30 and noon, and dinner between 5 and 5:30. Most of the time that’s fine, since I live by myself, and I have a pretty regular work schedule, but anything changing can stress me out about the new time and schedule.

Consider a recent week when I went to a training class for work. I knew lunch was scheduled to be between 12 and 1, though I highly doubted we’d eat exactly noon. One night we also had a dinner planned for 6:30, which meant we wouldn’t have our food until at least 7. All of which meant I’d be eating later than my usual meal times.

I would have to break my habits.

At first I worried about this, until I realized how self-defeating that was. Worry would make me focus on the change even more, and perhaps artificially create more problems by attention to the clock instead of my training instructor, or to what my body told me.

More than that, I truly had nothing to worry about. I had brought some snacks, but even if I hadn’t, the meeting center always had food available. I could have a small snack if needed before lunch or dinner, instead of automatically eating a full meal during my accustomed time. That’s exactly what I did, and then I simply ate less at the meal.

Which isn’t to say I want to change my eating times every day, but sometimes being forced out of my routines is helpful, encouraging me to return to mindfulness for my cues.

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