Be Habitually Habitual in Your Habits

As you may have surmised from the title, it’s time to talk about deadlifts. No? Altright, we’ll talk habits.

We all have habits, they are simply a part of life. Don’t believe me? Let’s go to the etymology of the word:

from Latin habitus “condition, demeanor, appearance, dress,”

from Latin habitare “to live, dwell; stay, remain,” frequentative of habere “to have, to hold, possess”

The word has connotations of life, appearance and clothing; the way we live, the way we appear and the way we dress. Or, as I wrote above, simply a part of life. I recall a movie or TV quote (sadly I can’t remember from where) that sums up the tie between life and habit, it went something like this:

Habits are hard to break, that’s why we call them habits.

So what does this have to do with a healthy lifestyle, or posture, or anything else I jabber on about around these parts? Well, pretty much everything.

I’ve written (extensively) on the difficulty of adding vigorous exercise to a busy, sedentary lifestyle. One of the biggest obstacles is simply, we are creatures of habit. We get up, eat, go to work, come home, eat, turn on the TV, go to bed. Get up the next day and lather, rinse, repeat.

Now, habits get an undeserved bad rap. A Google search brings up countless articles on bad habits, how they’re detrimental, and how they’re hard to break.

Wait, wut? “Undeserved bad rap,” Andrew?

Yes, undeserved. “Habit” is neutral, not good, not bad, otherwise we wouldn’t need the modifiers “good” and “bad.”

So, why did I get to thinking about all of this? Because last night was meet the teachers night for kid number 1. He’s in a new school this year, so along with his teachers, I met with the principal. Along the way came a discussion of his revolting habit of cracking his knuckles. “Revolting?” Yes, the principal and I agree that it’s a terrible habit and he needs to stop.

But why does he need to stop? There’s no actual data to support the idea that cracking is bad for your joints. Well, he needs to stop because knuckle cracking, like gum snapping, is an obnoxious, distracting, revolting sound that should never be heard, at all, ever. Not done in private, not done in public, the very concepts should be obliterated from the language, from the universe.

But there’s a problem. Ol’ daddy is a knuckle cracker.

Yes, I confess, I have subjected those around be to that awful sound for decades. I developed the habit as a boy, to be like my cool older brother, who cracked his. So I’ve been doing it for decades and, stop me if you’ve heard this before, habits are hard to break.

But Andrew, what has this got to do with a healthy lifestyle? If there’s no actual evidence that joint cracking is detrimental in any way, then it’s not limiting your ability to eat right, sleep better and exercise.

Yah, I know. But you know what else is a habit? Posture, good or bad. I have written, extensively, on the subject of correcting bad posture (even touching on the subject of posture and health). And postural correction is more than just performing my Posture Monday exercises, it is a change of habits.

Before I could Stand Up Right, I had to rain my muscles how to stand up right, and then I had to re-groove my brain (relearn my habits) to hold myself upright. All of which forced me to learn about habits, and changing them.

And you know what else is a habit? How about:

  • Eating healthy
  • Exercising regularly
  • Brushing and Flossing
  • Getting enough sleep

If you can fix one bad habit, if you can create one good habit, then you have made it easier to fix another, create another. And if you can fix/create another, then it is even easier to fix/create a third. And so on.

Yesterday I showed you a picture of #1 son sitting at the piano, with perfect posture. Two, three years ago, this wouldn’t have happened, he’d have been slouched over like I used to be, but I corrected my posture and my boys have learned to correct theirs, in part from my example.

Teaching myself to change bad posture habits has rippled out in my life. As I set out to fix my posture I laid the foundation for more. I have improved my sleep habits. I have (finally) developed the habit of flossing after brushing.

And…I quit cracking my knuckles. At 51 years old. Cold turkey. I’ve tried fruitlessly to stop in years gone by, but this time I succeeded, because I learned HOW to change a habit before I actually set out to change it. Funny thing is, it wasn’t at all hard, in fact it was actually pretty easy. I have spent so much time working on my habits the last five years that just making the decision meant it was pretty much done.

So, we circle back to the beginning. Fixing your diet, integrating exercise into your life, fixing your sleep, even something as simple and healthy as learning to floss regularly, at first they’re hard to do. But, if a stubborn, set in his ways guy like me can do it, you can too.

How? That’s the subject of another post, coming soon.