I haven’t smoked a cigarette in years, but I still remember the “companionship” they provided. Quitting was a huge challenge and it took a long time to unravel the behaviors that accompanied the habit. The entire process of digging around in my purse or pockets to unearth a pack and matches followed by extracting one and inhaling that first deep breath took time. It could be dramatic. It took my full focus, if I chose.
Whether waiting for a friend or the bus or your meal, lighting up almost meant that you weren’t alone…you had an instant companion. Wouldn’t leave home without them. You could busy your hands with the act and your thoughts could wander or even focus on the progress of your cigarette as it burned down. It afforded instant, albeit unhealthy entertainment and even a conversation starter if someone needed a light. More than anything, I suppose it supplied either an invitation to connect or a smoky barrier to engagement.
Fortunately those days are long gone and smokers are relegated to specific areas that are far from the rest of us. It’s no longer an activity to be copied or glamorized but I wonder if we haven’t taken on a new way to never be alone and simultaneously occupied. Last week I was waiting for a friend at a large bar/restaurant and rather than cigarettes, almost everyone had a cell phone in hand or resting in front of them, ready to be united in action. It’s not part of the place setting! Even people seated together at tables were often on their phones rather than conversing with their companions. I saw one person dining solo with a book and it was so out of the ordinary that he looked like a throwback to another era.
So, what’s really happening? Can we never be still and present in the moment either by ourselves or with other people? Is the cell phone an impediment to communication or is it just another tool that we’ve added to a potentially unhealthy set of behaviors or is that a grim and superficial observation? Actually, the whole scene was a reminder to me to check-in with myself and monitor how to make better use of my alone time. Reaching for the phone as a distraction from being slightly uncomfortable is certainly preferable to grabbing a cigarette, but in those moments, it’s also an opportunity to just be.
“All we are is a result of our daily thought” – Buddha
So what are you hoping to achieve, change, fix, alter or revise in your life? What makes this “wish” to change have any greater likelihood of follow through now than before?
What prompts change as delineated by the 4-stages that we all enter and exit at different speeds? In pre-contemplation the seed of a possible notion to perhaps shift something occurs. If there is enough interest, we then move to contemplation where the thought takes on added importance. This is followed by preparation for the big step and lastly moving on to the actual change.
Where are the battle lines drawn? Who will win…the old habit or the new behavior? Unless we traverse the process and internalize the stages, the truth is that it’s not happening. Too often it is much easier to skip along, falling back on old behaviors like “wishing, hoping and praying” for divine intervention and the magical solution to reveal itself.
What’s at stake? Improved health and/or appearance, stronger relationships, financial stability or an uncluttered desk may all be goals we set for ourselves. What’s the reward? More time, a new wardrobe, clearer boundaries and a cleaner work area are all tremendous benefits. Most importantly is the personal satisfaction of seeing ourselves as a number one priority; capable of change and deserving of attention, love and care.
• What is one area of your life that needs immediate attention?
• What are you willing to do to about it?
• Choose one action that you can take TODAY?
Why are some foods more appealing late in the day? Self control or managing small temptations all day long don’t seem to be such a problem. Yes, you are busier, engaging in activities, making decisions and otherwise occupied. In fact, the typical person makes approximately 200 food related decisions in the course of a day. However, according to author Dan Ariely, “This is a well known phenomenon known as depletion. All day long we face small temptations and do our best to resist them…We maintain control over ourselves, but our ability to resist urges is like a muscle: The more we use it, the more tired we become, until at night, it just becomes too weak to stop us.” So, out comes the ice cream or chips that you would not give a second look at earlier. What’s the alternative? Go to bed earlier? One way to overcome the problem is to keep all tempting things out of your house. Out of sight is also out of mind unless you are willing to go to extremes to satisfy a momentary lapse and find an open grocery store.
However, another perspective is that these are learned behaviors. Reaching for the cheese curls over the bicep curls may be a habit more tied to your environment than you think. According to author/psychologist Jeremy Dean, if you eat enough chips on the couch, you will automatically associate couch time with chip time. “We see major shifts in behavior when people move to a new house.” It’s easier to change our habits in a new setting. You don’t have to relocate to start fresh, but you do need to be aware of the cues that point you to a pint of ice cream and replace that with a healthier alternative. So, change it up. Sit in another room, limit your TV time or turn it off completely.
Awareness of the associations and links to automatic behaviors is the first step in creating change. Add a new behavior like an evening walk or a phone call to a friend. The benefit is two-fold; you have added activities that can improve your physical and psychological well being in a relatively “pain free” and low cost manner with options limited only by your imagination.