Building Your Coral Tree

I’m over halfway into my 30 days of incorporating 6 habits.  It’s still a conscious effort, but only half as difficult as it was the first week!

I’ve found that for me, all the habits pivot around the writing one, because it holds me accountable and consistent.  I don’t have the luxury of writer’s block, because I simply have to find something to report on, however ordinary.  It also gives me a journal of my progress and adaptation.  It helps me become more comfortable articulating and communicating.  It forces me to think and work more creatively with the mundane material available.  At first it was a chore, but now I look forward to it each day.

Similarly with some of the other habits, they become less chore-like and more something I feel good about accomplishing.  With any habit, you have to start small and realistic.

With laps I started with a couple, and now I’m up to 10 a day (about a half mile), sometimes divided in half to make it more achievable.  Apartment laps are just a temporary measure until the weather warms up and gardening (and kid-herding) begins.  At that point I won’t even think about it, it will be assimilated.

Cookery seems obvious and easy, but it takes some discipline to see that I eat one balanced, healthy meal a day, and not just forage.  I purposely keep very few junk foods around, and fill up on the healthy meal (and leftovers) first.  I’ve found that it helps me have fewer cravings.  Today’s meal, inspired by Avdi’s Asian cuisine, was an Asian stir-fry of Chinese eggplant, baby bok choi, peanuts, ginger, garlic, green chiles, cilantro, various Asian condiments, and chicken broth, served over jasmine rice, with enough left over for later.

Reading is more of an automatic reward than a habit to learn–I look forward to it every night.  I supplement it with documentaries, mostly about wildlife, which I also enjoy learning about.  Rewards can be useful for reinforcing your habits, just as in dog-training!

I have to remind myself that a habit is defined here as something you feel good about adding to your life, if not totally enjoyable, and in small doses at first.  If I have to force it, or I hate it, it won’t encourage me to feel self-confident at succeeding at it.  Once I feel like I’ve made progress on a small habit, I’m not as intimidated by adding on more challenging layers or levels.

We’ve established I’m not a meditator, whatever that is.  Maybe premeditation would be more my style!  I’m not sure at this point if meditation is even something I require for a balanced life, or if I’m already doing it in some alternate form that works for me.  Maybe it’s more beneficial for hectic rat-racers who need a time out.  I already have too much daily time on my hands, though not a lifetime left to waste.

I do notice that instilling the other habits has given my daily life more structure and less killing time.  It’s not busy work, either, it’s like a framework or blueprint for spending time more wisely.

Finally, socializing, so automatic for some people, though not always in a meaningful form, is one of the most challenging for me in my circumstances.  On the other hand, making it an important priority for a healthy life ensures that I’ll try to let it happen whenever possible.  It’s easy to retreat into my introvert default setting, but I’m making more of an effort to resist that tendency.

I know that for older people, isolation is common and can contribute to depression and dementia.  I’m fortunate not to be forced into that situation.  I’d rather keep learning to navigate the tricky, awkward complexities of human interaction, however uncomfortable, because it’s essential for mental/emotional health and connection.

Well, there you have my progress report so far.  The important thing to take away is that it’s a constantly evolving, transforming process.  By next month my habit routine may look totally different, as it adjusts to reality and takes on steeper challenges.  That’s the whole idea, to give yourself a support structure to build on and adapt, like a coral “tree”.  When the baby corals (habits) are established, they can be transplanted into a more permanent natural habitat (your brain and life).

The key is to start in tiny increments that you can handle for short time slots, and work up gradually.  Don’t give up, but don’t be hard on yourself.  If you skip a beat, pick up tomorrow where you left off.  It’s just a way to build constructive patterns into your brain until they become second nature and push out the destructive ones.





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