Developing new habits (almost) unconsciously

Recently I’ve noticed I’ve formed a few new habits, not necessarily consciously. Like many of us, my day-to-day life has changed a lot in the last few months. It has impacted us all in different ways, and some of those changes will be new habits we welcome into our lives whilst others may not be as welcome.

I wanted to share a couple of examples today of my habits that have changed, and I’d like you to consider how your habits have changed and which you’d like to keep and which you might want to adjust.

The first change of habit is my exercise. Usually I go to gym classes a few times a week – that’s my main form of exercise. I swim at my gym too – I go through phases with this but it will usually average about once a week. And I run – usually when I don’t have as much time or I’m not available at the right time for my favourite gym classes. This is usually 1-2 times per week.

In the last 12 weeks, that’s all changed. No gym classes. No swimming.

Fortunately, I’ve been able to keep running (I’m so glad we’ve continued to be able to exercise outside the home as this has been wonderful for my mental health). As that’s all I’ve been able to do, I’ve been running usually 6-7 times a week. I’ve been through phases of enjoying this and finding it incredibly frustrating (especially as I’m running out of new places to explore!).

Regardless, it’s become a habit now. I’ve got used to getting ready to run quickly. I’ve got used to knowing how to prepare myself mentally and physically. I’ve got used to the software I use to track my run (although I recently changed and that’s been very exciting ????). And most interestingly but not really surprisingly, I’ve got used to running as my main form of exercise. My body has adapted and I don’t feel as many aches and pains. What used to be a “long” run of 5k is now the shortest distance I run.

It’s been a gradual process and not a conscious one.

The second change of habit I’ve noticed has been my sleeping habits, particularly my bedtime. I’m notoriously bad at keeping a healthy sleep routine anyway, and a variety of factors have affected this recently. My usual habits are that I aim to be in bed by midnight, and am usually asleep at around 1am. I have a diabetic cat who needs to be injected every 12 hours so depending on his schedule depends on when I set my alarm. Before lockdown it was 8-8:30, but during lockdown I’ve moved it to 9-9:30.

My bedtime has been getting later and later, and I’ve been waking earlier (partly due to the light, partly due to not sleeping well). I’ve got used to relaxing and faffing late evening so that I’m getting ready for bed later. I’ve got used to it taking longer from starting to get ready for bed to actually getting into bed (partly because of the bedtime routines of others in the house and the habits we’re forming together). I’ve got used to more faffing when I finally get into bed. I’ve got used to feeling tired in the morning.

It’s become a habit now. My body has got used to a later bedtime. My evening routine has changed. My morning routine has changed.

It’s been a gradual process and not a conscious one.

One of these is a habit I’m happy to have changed. One isn’t. Now that I’m aware, I can do something to amend the habit I’m not so happy to have changed. And I know that as I change the habit to a more healthy one it will be a gradual process and become an unconscious one.

These examples have highlighted to me how you can change habits fairly significantly if you move things gradually. And the new habits become stuck into your routine, like it or not.

I’m going to make some more conscious choices to ensure my habits are ones that are helping me and supporting me, and I’m going to make small changes that become habit more easily than big changes.

What habits have you developed recently?

Are they helping you? If not, how could you make minor amendments so that they are?

What new habits would you like to adopt? How could you gradually move towards those?