Changing My Habits

A few months ago, I was hit by a tsunami of work that led me down a very unhealthy path of exhaustion. I made a misjudgement of the timelines for my projects and all of the sudden all my timelines were due all at the same time. Hooray.

I used to go to spin class at least 3 times a week, but the workload was too much for me to take even 45 mins off from work. The thing about exercise is, the less you do it, the less energy you have. But sometimes you have no choice, the work needs to be completed so you give up all your extra free time to finish it.


Of course, giving up exercise meant I had less "energy". And so I trudged along, pushing myself to the point that my body just broke down. I caught a really bad viral fever and I took that as a sign that I needed to slow down and go back to my usual routine, decline or delay projects, and essentially learn to place healthy boundaries on myself without feeling guilty of placing the boundaries in the first place.


I was also being a little naughty and started eating more junk food than usual - I needed that extra hit of salty sinful bad crap into my body as motivation to finish the work. And so my healthy, balanced lifestyle and diet went down the drain during those 2 months.

When the viral fever happened, I immediately went back into my healthier range of diet but it was too late. I suffered from the viral fever for 3 weeks. It was really bad, I was in bed most of time, asleep.


The week I recovered from my viral fever, another unfortunate event happened to me. I sprained my ankles really badly, and was bedridden yet again. 10 years prior, I fractured my leg and my doctor told me it could happen again. And so it happened. There I was, on my bed, isolated from the world for an additional unnecessary period of time, feeling extremely depressed and unproductive.

Thankfully, I didn't break anything this time around, so my recovery was fast. 2-3 weeks, I was walking again and desperate to go back to my usual healthy routine.


I take all of this as a sign that i MUST continue with my usual habits. The viral fever and ankle injury gave me time to think about my life, my habits and my purpose. I was working all the time, and I didn't have enough time to reflect on the point of it all. I realized I was starting to resent the work, even though I loved the work. It was obvious this was happening because my habits started to change. And when my habits change, it's usually because of something deeper than being "lazy" or "busy".


I took on all these projects because I thought, I had to. But I forgot to ask the real question - do these projects align with my goals? Are my goals even the same goals as before? What am I doing? Is it worth it? Where is the line between WORK and PERSONAL LIFE?

I still haven't figured that part out, but in my experience, once I manage my habits, my thinking process improves, I am more in touch and grounded with my feelings and my actions, and I am in a state of FLOW, that makes life much easier to manage no matter what im doing.


So now that my ankle is better, I can walk and drive around, I've decided to start anew. My new goal is to understand what I like what I dont like (about work), what works for me, what doesn't, and find a NEW and IMPROVED routine and set of habits that will help me towards my ULTIMATE goal in life - which is to be BALANCED, and NEUTRAL. Balanced, meaning, my work life, my social life, my inner life, my hobbies all in sync together, neutral, meaning I not sad, depressed, feeling down, nor am I hoping to be superbly happy or ecstatic (I mean if it happens, great, if it doesn't im alright either way)


At one point, all of my life was focussed on work - but now I realize, even though I am richer out of it, I am not that much happier because of it. This is something that I have to really think about every time I say YES to a project. Many people push me to do bigger projects and to put myself out there - which is of course, is kind & supportive of them to do, but all of that will require more of my time and energy. As it is, I am unable to cope with the amount of projects i'm getting. It's time to decline and choose projects wisely. It is also time to tune out "feedback" from people and learn to manage the pressure in a healthier way.


I've been reading the book "The Power of Habit" by Charles Duhigg to help me with my AWESOME HABITS IMPLEMENTATION PROGRAM. In his book he discussed the science behind the formation of habits, how our brain works, and how little energy we will have to put in to do GOOD STUFF as long as we have trained our brain to do it like muscle memory. Meaning, the first few times will be difficult to change habits - more effort and energy is required to push oneself to do a set of actions, but later on (and I suspect) after 28 times of doing a particular action, you think less about it, it's easier to complete, it becomes part of your life.


Now, this isn't the first time I made a big HABIT CHANGE. I've done this many many times in my adult life. I believe, the older you get, the more things you understand about your likes and dislikes, needs and wants, and sometimes things just change for you, so a habit change is inevitable. I know that after doing a set of actions after a period of a month, things will just be easier for me, and I will see improvements.


This a diagram I summarized based on the book.


This is how habits are formed.

Cue -> Routine -> Reward


Cue - A trigger = emotion, smell, scent, imagery, sound etc signalling a reward.


Routine - An action one must do to receive a reward.


Reward - Something we get that makes us happy.


First of all, I need to be clear about what type of habits I want to incorporate into my life.

I have decided that I want to wake up early, meditate for at least 10-15 mins, workout in my room for 10-15 mins, every single day, even weekends.


I decided to meditate everyday so I can be in touch with myself, observe and reflect on my thoughts and my feelings. This way, every time I am doing something im not very happy with, I can catch myself faster when im in it and make adjustments.


I decided working out everyday at home is probably more doable for me - even if I am SUPER DUPER busy or lazy. Doing it at home, cuts the time I need to travel to a fitness class or gym, and doing it everyday will help me form the habit easier, and that I dont need to reserve an hour or 2 hours on exercise on a particular day.


So my new habits go like this


Wake up, drink water, clean bed

Drink coffee

Meditate

Work out

Shower / get ready

take 15 mins to think about what I need to do / write


I've decided that COFFEE will be my cue for MEDITATION and MEDITATION will be my cue for EXERCISE.


When I drink coffee, my mood is lifted and im much more relaxed and awake. I then listen to a podcast or affirmations during my meditation and do some creative visualizations of what I want in life and my purpose. Once the 15 mins of meditation is over, I usually feel pretty pumped and positive to start the day. I do a 15 min HIIT workout, and then im all set to shower.


I've been doing this for a week and I already see changes in my mood, in my actions, in my thoughts, my productivity and even my body.


I will also like to incorporate reading time, free drawing time, journaling, and another 15 min HIIT in the evening in my new habits. I already read and draw every day though, but I don't have a set time and duration to do so. I do it whenever im in the mood to do it. I'll need more time to think and reflect on this to see if it's better that I set it in my schedule. For now, I will work on those simple new changes before I add on more things. I dont want to overwhelm myself.


Once those habits are formed, hopefully within a month, I'll start meditating once again in the evening, do another HIIT session, shower, journal, read and go to sleep. This will be my goal for the second month of my AWESOME HABIT IMPLEMENTATION PROGRAM.


All it takes is 28 days! (at least thats what I read about habits)


If you're keen on changing your habits, I would recommend reading the Charles Duhigg book, and try it out for yourself. I can assure you, as a PROFESSIONAL SLACKER that I am, once those habits are ingrained in your brain, even if you slack and feel lazy, doing those set of actions will be automatic for you. No matter what, you will still be on track, as long as meditation and working out is incorporated in your routine every day.


In my lifetime, i've derailed myself from my healthy habits countless times, but it's easy for me to get back on track because i've done it before. Every time I do a habit change, my routine will be different. I don't know if this habit is the routine of my lifetime, but ill find out soon enough! Hopefully, now that i've incorporated daily meditation in my habits, i wont be CHANGING my habits every time something affects my routine (like extra work, holidays, events or injuries etc) I'm hoping that my meditation will make me more aware of what i'm doing and that I would be more in control of my life.


I will write more on this topic after a month and provide a detailed analysis and key learnings of this whole journey of mine.


Till then,


Goodbye and good luck everyone!




Hi! I'm Miriam, I'm an Artist, Designer, Lecturer & Entrepreneur based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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