How Big Changes Affect Little Habits


You might not notice, but you have dozens of tiny routines that you follow throughout the day. You prepare your food a certain way, brush your teeth a certain way, get dressed a certain way, and many other things. We usually aren’t aware of the way we do these things because we’ve done them so many times that our brain works partially on auto-pilot. Only when there is a huge change in our lives do we notice all of these tiny routines.

My wife and I moved into a new apartment about a month ago, which was a huge change. The entire layout of the apartment was different from our current one. The location of the bathroom, kitchen, bedrooms, closets is completely different from our old apartment. We have less cupboard space, but now we have a pantry. We have fewer closets but the closets are bigger than the old ones. The entire bathroom is different.

When we first moved in, we had to rethink all of our routines, where we store things, how the house works and the way we do almost everything. I felt lost for a few days and there were many instances of “Do you know where the … is?” Once we got into the groove of things, we established new routines (although I still check every drawer for the measuring cups) and settled into the new habits.

This huge change made me realize how much we rely on little routines to stay healthy and happy. I keep my closet organized in a certain way so I don’t have to think too much about what I’m going to wear for the day. We put kitchen utensils and gadgets in certain places so we don’t go crazy trying to find them every time we cook or eat. However, sometimes these little routines can be detrimental to our health and happiness.

My Year of Change experiments are my way of disrupting certain little habits and routines for a short time so that I can be more aware of how they affect me and certain aspects of my life. For example, this month I went the whole month without watching any TV or other videos. It was quickly apparent that I had created a little habit of watching TV after work or on weekends and pulling up YouTube on my phone when I was bored. The exercise of actively noticing these routines and habits helped me understand the triggers for the habit and made me more aware of how the habit affected me.

There are many ways to notice little habits. Our usage of smart phones is a big topic of discussion right now, and for good reason. Smart phones are great tools, but too often we fall into mindless, automatic routines of checking, scrolling and tapping. Find a way to disrupt this little habit for even a short time to notice how it affects you. Some ideas: leave your phone at home for a few hours, put it in Do Not Disturb mode during an evening date, pledge a dollar to a charity for every time you check your phone throughout the day. Since these little habits are so automatic, it often takes a big change to help you be aware, cut back or create a new habit.

You don’t have to move or get a new job to notice all of your little routines. Sometimes the big change is making the decision to be mindful of the habit, avoid the habit for a set amount of time, and then notice how it affects you when you do or don’t do the habit.

Here’s a quick list of habits that tend to become automatic that you might consider for disruption:

  • Checking your smart phone when there was no notification
  • Checking Facebook/Twitter/etc.
  • Watching TV
  • Drinking soda
  • Boredom snacking
  • Picking your nose
  • Gossiping
  • Playing video games
  • Watching videos
  • Bad posture
  • Sitting for too long

What other habits or routines are automatic for you? What’s worked for you to break the automation and realize good change?

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