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We all have habits and we tend to think of them as "bad". You know, "She has a [bad] habit of biting her nails", or, "He has a [bad] habit of interrupting people". When I googled the definition, this is what I found: a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up, as in, "this can develop into a bad habit". Yet, when I looked up synonyms, this came up: custom, pattern, practice, routine. They all mean pretty much the same thing, but only "habit" implies there's a problem.

I prefer the word "ritual". Somehow, we do something that feels right in a particular situation. When a similar set of circumstances happens again, we repeat the response. Eventually, we find ourselves automatically responding in the same way every time. We don't even think about it anymore. If it doesn't have a bad outcome, we can hang onto it indefinitely. In fact, it can become a comforting and familiar reaction. On the other hand, if it works against us, it would be wise to let it go.

People have a hard time giving up habits and sometimes that's because we forget that we created them in the first place. We decided to use something like cigarettes or overeating as a means of soothing ourselves at one time. Then, whenever we felt stressed, we had something to do about it. If we constructed one set of behaviors, we can fashion others. Doing it mindfully and with our best interests as the guiding force, what if we carefully designed habits that work for us and not against us? Habits can be a wonderful thing; a way to cope by turning to something we recognize as a way to calm or console us. With a little effort, we could rewire ourselves to go for a walk or take some deep breaths, for example. Then, when we need it most, we wouldn't even have to think about it. We would be "programmed" to fall back on one of our "good" habits. Let's create rituals that are hard to give up; that serve us and work for us.


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About the Author




Barbara L Cummings, MS, RN

the Mindful Maven and Mistress of Meditation, is a sassy Queen-ager, mentor, confidante and trusted guide who provides people with everyday life support. 

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