Two weeks ago, my husband and I moved our kitchen trash can. It didn’t seem like a big issue at the time.
For five years, I had it stored away behind the pantry door. While it’s in the kitchen, technically, it serves as the main garbage receptacle for our home. I had picked the pantry because I find trash to be unsightly. And it can smell. Plus, I had cats. Cats who get too curious for their own good, sometimes. Three of ’em.
But my husband had a few good points: Moving the trash to beside the sink would reduce the amount of food droppings and other spillage across the kitchen to the pantry, and, ewww, fewer germs and residue on the pantry door handle.
I had to admit that his logic was sound. It seemed like a better, more sanitary choice.
That was the case until the first 300 times I went to throw something away.
Five years of habit had turned moving the trash into a frustrating experience. I would maybe get trash to the right location about 1/100th of the time. The rest of the 30 times a day I threw trash away, I would only remember after I had opened the pantry door. I’d barely catch myself before throwing said items onto the empty floor.
Trash can, 30 – Lindsey, 0
Can you relate?
Of course, overcoming a habit of trash throwing can be much more harmless than getting frustrated or giving up on implementing a new habit for our health. Whether we start to eat a new diet or made a promise to ourselves to get to the gym, it can take up to three months for a new habit to stick.
That’s because some of us could be trying to turn the tide of years, if not a lifetime, of ingrained habits and behaviors. And it can feel like we are trying to roll a boulder uphill to a distant mountain peak, sometimes.
So how do we get to the top of that mountain?
And I mean slow. Pick a tiny thing you can do or eat once a week. Promise yourself you will eat fruit instead of ice cream on Saturday night, or that you will walk five minutes on Wednesday evenings.
….about what, when, where, for how long and with who you will work on this new habit. “I want to lose weight” doesn’t give you a clear action plan. But committing yourself to not eating seconds every night at dinner, or going for a 20-minute walk with your husband on Tuesdays and Thursdays after work gives you a much more navigable plan.
If you are having problems sticking with a plan, either find yourself a friend or accountability partner to help you accomplish it – or to trouble shoot the issue with you. Sometimes you may simply have to scale back on your commitment (10 minutes on the indoor bike rather than a half hour) may be what the doctor ordered. We may bite off more than we can chew, and it’s okay to start off super slow and honor where we are, and move up to where we want to be.
BE PATIENT WITH YOURSELF
You will slip. You will falter. You will fall back on old habits. This is completely NORMAL. So go into this change experiment expecting that. Beating yourself up about missing your mark is a little like shooting yourself in the foot only a few hours into a long journey.
TRACK YOUR PROGRESS
Either write it on a calendar, get a food or exercise diary from the book store or amazon, or use a smart phone app. Just the act of keeping a history of how you’re doing can be an incredible way to motivate you to keep going. It’s more fun if you can try to beat out your own past performances than to compare yourself to someone else.
What’s the hardest part for you when trying to start a new habit, or breaking an old one? What’s helped you in the past and what hasn’t? I’d love to hear from you – comment below!
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