We all can identify habits in our life that we would like to cut back on or change, but actually making those changes can be overwhelming. For people in recovery the changes we have made have transformed who we are and given us second chances to live more full filling and satisfying lives. But sometimes when we make such big shifts in our lives we can still get bogged down on the small things. With varying degrees of success I have tried to become more aware of my bad habits and find ways to replace them with healthy more productive habits. These are small ways for me to stay grounded and present without letting my mind wander into that negative space I like to inhabit all too often.
I have a terrible habit of reaching for my phone the moment I wake up in the morning and scrolling through social media which inevitably leads to finding a piece of news that will upset or anger me. My goal is to eliminate my phone from my morning routine altogether, but for now that is too daunting. So I’ve focused on slightly changing that habit and taking small steps that keeps me away from delving into the endless depths of the Twitterverse. Idle time in the mornings is a surefire way for me to find myself practicing bad habits. So I make a plan for myself in the morning, when I wake up, I need to get out of bed immediately, if I don’t, it’s straight to the phone. So when I’m up, I prepare for the day, the first thing I try to do every day is make my bed. It’s amazing how such a simple, small act can set things on the right path for the rest of the day. If I do reach for my phone, I’ll stay away from social media and listen to a podcast or put on an AA zoom meeting while I’m getting ready. NYC has some great early morning AA meetings where you can listen to people in recovery from all the world. My other outlet is the gym, on most mornings I have a scheduled class I need to get to that keeps me focused on getting ready and leaves little down time. For me and many people in recovery, having structure and a routine are paramount to my self-care and well-being.
One of my other bad habits resolves around my commute to work every day. It is only 30 minutes, but a lot can go wrong in that time which can lead to me walking into work in the wrong frame of mind. I would find myself using those 30 minutes to either listen to news, big mistake, or worrying about, and often times inventing scenarios in my head about what could go wrong at work. Throw in traffic on the Northern state or my anger at the guy who refuses to use his blinker and I was self-sabotaging myself before my workday even started. My first move was eliminating any and all news from my commute. It was serving no purpose and only made my more agitated. I discovered audiobooks, which you can download for free onto your phone if you have a library card, which is also free! If you don’t have a library card, go get one, you can download free books and audiobooks with an app called Libby, it’s an amazing service.
Another way I’ve improved my drive into work is through podcasts. There are so many great ones for mindfulness that have really helped me process my thoughts more productively and put me in a much better headspace. I recommend Tara Brach’s podcast, she is a psychologist and a meditation teacher, she does an incredible job of teaching us the importance of awareness and acceptance. When I’d rather not get introspective, I turn to my love of all thing’s movies and TV, two or my favorite podcasts are the The Big Picture and The Filmcast. Sometimes nothing is better for my mental health than turning my brain off and listening to a bunch of people talk about the latest Marvel movie.
All our habits serve a purpose, whether good or bad. I try to broaden my awareness of what I’m getting from my habits, why do I need to keep checking twitter throughout the day, what do I think I’m missing out on? My goal is to be able to recognize when a habit is holding me back or keeping me from doing something more productive. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging and even appreciating a habit that might not seem great but still serves a purpose for you. We all need to disconnect at times and get lost or entertained by something, the trick is finding and maintaining that balance. As someone in recovery I know how important that balance is, it keeps me sober, not only in the physical sense but in the emotional one as well.