Habit change: no different in January than any other month

CW: mention of diets and other methods for changing eating habits.

Everywhere I look this month, I see article after article about changing habits, about developing new patterns, about getting unstuck from whatever behavior I’m currently mired in.

The New York Times is doing an Eat Well Challenge (of course they are…) They recommend ditching the dieting (yay!) and suggest we “train the brain” instead. Train the brain to do what? To eat differently from the way we ate before January 1, 2022. Their current advice involves mindfulness, some psychology, and focus over time to see what results occur.

My favorite meditation app Ten Percent Happier is doing a two-week challenge called Getting Unstuck. I’m now on day 7. It’s a series of short discussions and 10-minute meditations, all on themes related to attention, focus, self-compassion, identifying thought and feeling patterns, and other topics TBA. So far I’m enjoying it, but you all know I’m already a huge fan of theirs. YMMV.

Yesterday, Natalie wrote a post about celebrating small victories from tiny changes. (Spoiler alert) She’s been walking a lot-a-lot in 2021, and she’s now a better walker and also feeling more resilient in the face of, well, times like these. Go Natalie!

But, if you read the small print (actually all the print in her post is the same size), what Natalie says is that, over an entire year, she (with lots of support) has implemented some new habits. She also opened up some space for adjusting to the vagaries of life (e.g. weather, schedules, etc.) and set up her house and clothing to make it easier to get outside. Again, go Natalie!

My 2021 behavior change story is similar to Natalie’s. Over the course of a year, I’ve developed a daily meditation practice. How did I do it? I did/do a lot of things:

I bought some apps (Ten Percent Happier, Headspace, Calm). I also downloaded free apps (Insight Timer, Buddhify).

I virtually always do a 5-minute in-bed morning meditation, using my phone. I sit in my living room on my yoga bolster, which is handily in the corner to meditate several days a week. I do an in-bed evening meditation for sleep or just cool-down before bed

I notice times during the day when I’m feeling extra anxious or stuck or fearful, and I’ll stop and do ten good breaths. I can’t recommend this enough for everyone.

I spent some time and money on books and also a weekend meditation retreat with my favorite teacher, Jeff Warren. Spending dedicated and extended time deepened my practice and my dedication to exploring it.

After more than a year of adjusting our lives to accommodate and incorporate these new patterns, are Natalie and I drastically different versions of ourselves? No. Well, sort of yes, but not in the Gut-Busting-Challenge sort of way. Both of our guts are intact (Natalie delicately hinted at this, and I’ll say it outright about me). My physical health is about the same. But I’m moving more than I did in 2020, and I’m more focused and happy and resilient (I’m borrowing that last term from Nat, but it’s just as true for me).

Challenges are fine; I’ve finally, after much struggling, made my peace with them. And there’s nothing to be done about the fact that it’s raining challenges every January. But, readers, we here at Fit is a Feminist Issue know (and know that you know) that developing different behaviors (around whatever you’re looking to add or subtract from your life) is a year-long and years-long enterprise. It’s also influenced by life changes (like getting a dog or changing jobs or moving or shifts in health status). The results are often subtle and not what the challenges often promise. There will be no splits done by me on February 1. But that’s fine.

Readers, I know I keep asking this, but I’d love to hear from you what your current thinking is on adjustments or plans you’d like to implement and where you are in that process.

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