Thursday, April 14, 2011

Are You A Creature Of Habit?

Yesterday I did a wonderful thing for my health.  I didn't take a jog, get my teeth cleaned, or eat spinach.  I spent the day with girlfriends.  Research shows this wonderful tonic does as much good for us as going to the gym.  Laughing, sharing, destressing,and connecting is as good as it gets.

"I am such a creature of habit", said one of the girls.  Everyone affirmed agreement and sited ways this plays out in their life.  One said, "I always sit in the same place at church", and that comment alone got almost 100% agreement with stories of times someone they knew was offended when their place was taken. (church are you listening?  this is a biggie if you want to grow)

"We always sit at the same place at the table", someone else added. "Always wear the pink scarf with the red dress", "always eat lunch at 12:00 noon", always, always, always.

 And, yet, when we begin to live each day just like the one before, living the same day over again, we are missing the joy of life.  Are we not?

When our lives become predictable in too many areas maybe it is time to give this "creature of habit" thing a rest!  All of us want to continue learning throughout our lives.  At least we say we do. We want to grow and keep our minds strong and creative.  We don't do that by boxing ourselves in.  Research shows that the brain "loves" novelty. It likes it when different neuro-transmitters are firing, not so much when the same pathways turn into ruts. Learning spikes when something new is on the horizon, when the teacher does something different, when newness is part of our experience.

When I was a teacher I always enjoyed trying new strategies.  If I didn't, I soon got bored, and so did my students.  One day I was cajoling a colleague to get out of her rut and try something different and she said, "Sandra, I like ruts!"  And there is a place for that too.  Structure is good.  It provides a stable platform around which to build our daily activities.  Routine is comfortable.  We know what is coming next. As much as the brain likes novelty, it also thrives on routine, the well worn neural pathways in our brain.  Neither extreme disorder and spontaneity nor extreme habit and routine serve us well. 

As in most of life striking a balance is what we seek.  Should we become too regimented....and we find ourselves doing "this" every Monday, and "this" every Tuesday, and sitting "here" on Sundays, and serving "this for dinner on Thursdays", maybe we are just a tad out of balance.  I challenge you to take a day, or even a week, whoa, and step out of some aspects of your routine.  Choose a different seat for dinner, wear the purple scarf with the red skirt, drink lemonade instead of Coke.  Just do if differently.  And for heavens sake, please sit somewhere different at church!

13 comments:

  1. Sandra so very true. I don't really like change and I am a bit of a planner (understatement of the year). However I have found that some of the best things in my life happened when I went out on a limb or took a risk. I always try to have a plan B to Z though but it is great to get out of your comfort zone sometimes and stretch yourself!

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  2. Very thought provoking post. I am one who LOVES change but sometimes I feel like I don't let something 'work' before moving on.

    That is funny that you mention sitting in the same place at church. About 3 months ago this topic came up at book club (we all attend the same church)and we agreed that we had become creatures of habit in this area. We all agreed to sit somewhere new to change things up but now three months have passed and everyone has gone back to their old spots as before. Creatures of habit are we.

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  3. I don't like change but you are right it is good for you!

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  4. CB Princess, I greatly admire planners. Expecially those who are flexible. It's a weakness of mine.

    Connie, I don't know what it is with us and the church thing but most people do it. I stay in the same general area too.

    Gayle, Well at least some change is good for us but we have to stay true to ourselves first and foremost.

    Thanks to all of you for the visit and your comments.
    Sandra

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  5. Thanks for following, I wish I could do that with my best friend, but she lives to far away, I do like to unwind with my mom when we can though, that is totally destressing, I love talking with her....following you back...

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  6. Design, How nice to have a relationship with your mom where you can unwind with each other. Lucky you. Luckier her.

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  7. The spot at church thing made me laugh. We were at a growth conference last weekend and this is one of the things they brought up!

    Breaking out of the habits we have hinders our growth in every aspect of our lives!

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  8. So true Heather. Churches talk about the seating thing but I guess people sit where they want to sit! :)
    Sandra

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  9. Hi! Great post! I’m belatedly stopping by from the UBP. Nice to meet you!
    I have two blogs, and I’d love for you to stop by when you get a minute. We’re giving away a $100 Visa gift card until the 19th at Giveaway Corner. Thanks!
    http://giveawaycorner.blogspot.com/ (A free giveaway every weekday)
    http://anne-somekindofwonderful.blogspot.com/ (Family blog)

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  10. I like your blog! Changes are good...Daniel

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  11. Sandra appreciate you sharing. Thank you for your visit to my blog as well. Blessings.

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  12. It is such a classic human trait and most of us can't help it. Sometimes I try to break from routine...
    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I already follow you via GFC.
    Best,
    Elizabeth

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  13. Ha! I accept your challenge, because I can see the wisdom of what you are saying. I do get into ruts.
    And I do grow when I get out of them, which I do not do very often.
    Though a couple of years back I took a giant leap out of the rut that was making me unhappy... and found true happiness instead.
    Thank you so much for inviting me over. Good words here!

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