Breaking Old Habits

            I heard a commentary on why our New Year’s resolutions are so hard to keep, or, to put it another way, why old habits are so difficult to break.  The psychologist, of course, suggested making these vows more specific, not only saying, “I’ll lose five pounds,” but also resolving, “I won’t eat between meals; I’ll give up dessert; I’ll hit the tread mill.”

            He spoke of the importance of habits.  Good ones, like locking a seat belt in place, which are not only critical, but automatic.  When we have so much on our minds, we benefit from the habits we make that serve us positively. They free our minds for other concerns and provide a calm, born out of the familiar. Good habits and, I suppose, bad ones, too, give us pleasure.

            When we try to reform a bad habit, we are battling the familiar, the automatic response, and the comfort of the familiar.  This psychologist claimed that habits took anywhere from 21-28 days to form, so if we committed to a new action for a month, it could become routine for us.  Most of us, however, can’t continue the new for that long.

            Recently, I blogged about my intention to do something new every day as an antidote to time getting away from me.  Doing the new, I maintained, gave a vivid experience, similar to that which we had in childhood when so much was a first time experience.

            This resolve lasted several days, but then life and its demands took over.  Plus, there was something exhausting about scheduling something new each day.

            The psychologist explained that breaking with our routine is tiring.  He had arrived in the United States yesterday for the first time to promote his book.    Although exciting and invigorating, the new is also demanding.  He had to find a new place for breakfast, for a cup of tea, for how to use public transportation or for driving around this new city.  So one reason we resist the “new” is that it is challenging, unsettling, tiring.

            And truthfully, even with the old habits that are good for us, that we love, like swimming, for instance, in my case, it can grow stale and not as pleasurable with the routine.  So we often want to think of little additions to the habit to bring out the new in it.

            So I’m hoping that those writers I teach and mentor will examine their writing habits, as I will, and think about alterations, additions, subtractions.  Alter your schedule for a solid month and see if it increases productivity. And though we say this routinely at this time of year, so that it truly has little effect, Happy New Year.  May we all see what we can do to improve our own lives and that of others around us?



About Sally Hobart Alexander

Blinded at the age of twenty-six, I left California and elementary school teaching for life in Pittsburgh, Pa. There, I met my husband, got a Masters' degree in social work, had two kids, now 35 and 32, and became a writer. Surprisingly, the writing career led me full-circle to teaching, and I teach in Chatham University's M.F.A. program and lead two writing critique groups. Always, since the age of 26, I have traveled, not in the stereotypic darkness attributed to blindness, but a mist. My blog then, "traveling through the mist" will deal with issues in my culturally different life as a blind writer, teacher, speaker, and human being.
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One Response to Breaking Old Habits

  1. Susan Krevat says:

    Our class just read your book Mom’s Best Friend, and we were just reading your blog. We were hoping you might answer some questions for us:

    1. When did Ursula die? How many dogs have you had since then?

    2. In what year did Marit die?

    3. Why does Mom’s Best Friend have black and white pictures instead of colored pictures?

    4. How do you read your messages on the computer if you can’t see?

    5. How old are you now? (if you don’t mind telling us)

    6. How has your day been today?

    7. Is it hard being blind?

    8. Do you read Braille books?

    9. Is there a Braille edition of Mom’s Best Friend?

    Thank you if you can answer the questions for our class,


    Mrs. Krevat’s 3rd grade class, Goodyear School, Woburn, Ma

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