“Making Habits, Breaking Habits” by Jeremy Dean

Recommended reading for the resolution-writer!

Making Habits, Breaking Habits by Jeremy Dean (Da Capo Books, ISBN 978-0-738-21598-3)

One of the fabulous perquisites of working at my day job is a constant influx of Advance Reading Copies of books about health & wellness topics.   There are people who are in charge of certain areas of content, and they get first crack at the new books. Sometimes, the authors are contacted to serve as experts. I don’t think there are frequent book reviews coming out of my workplace.

But then, what happens to all of the lovely ARCs? They get placed on a shelf, free to a good home for anyone interested in reading them. During the slow, silent days at the office when everyone else still had vacation days to use or lose, I meandered those shelves and found this gem.

Dean’s book comes out this week, so I recommend picking yourself up a copy if you’re interested in habits, creating or breaking them, and how the brain works.  I like the massive amount of research and the large number of studies he uses to support his ideas about how to change habits.

If you don’t read scientific / psychology books from time to time, I wouldn’t call this the most readable introduction.  (This is not the chatty, personal style of Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, for example.)  I kept wishing the author would get down to a nitty-gritty bullet list of how to make and break habits.  There’s a reason he doesn’t – the “why” that he starts with is an important part of the “how”.

Reasons why I highly recommend this book to people who are serious about habit change:

  • Realistic expectations – Did you know that the “it takes 21 days to form a habit” is largely a myth, and only applies to really easy habits? 
  • Plans of action – It’s easier to replace a habit than it is to remove it entirely, or to add a new habit onto an existing chain of actions.  There are also additional steps you can take to plan ahead for moments when an old habit might come back into play.
  • Self-forgiveness – I find it easier to be gentle with myself – and all of my habits – after reading this book.

My habit plan for 2013:

  • Habit to break: Hitting the snooze 6-7 times when the alarm goes off in the morning.  Habit to make: Practicing yoga during that time instead.  Possible obstacles mostly involve Brett, so I’ve recruited him to be helpful instead of a hindrance. Starting date: 1/2/2013 – estimated time before this becomes a habit? Guessing close to 90 days out if I really stick with it.  This one plays into a number of my 2013 goals  – it’s better for my sleep hygiene, it’s taking time to be silent and listen, it’s strengthening exercise…  If I can recreate this one habit for the year, I’ll be setting myself up to succeed at a large number of my longer-term goals. It goes into feeling Connected, Invigorated, and quite probably, Generative.
    • Bonus: Once this one is in place, I would like to add writing to the chain after yoga. Either my journal or working on fiction (not sure yet). This will also feed into breaking the social media habit in the next bullet – because that’s what I do now with that time.
  • Habit to break: Checking social media and email every 30 seconds. Habit to make: Logging my food and activity.  Start date: slow / gentle start 1/2/2013. I haven’t done the obstacle planning for this one, and I’m likely to have to use multiple replacements for the existing habit. This one will take 60-90 days once I get going on it.  This one will support feeling Invigorated and Generative, and if I force myself to connect with individuals without Facebook and Twitter, it should also support Connectedness.
  • Habit to break: Negative self-talk, negative mental patterns.  Habit to make: Mindfulness, listening and gentleness, hear the message and then let it go. I’d like to focus on connectedness between everyone, and on generating new ideas. This one supports all three of my goal-words. I estimate that this is something that will take a very long time to make stick. I haven’t really worked on the obstacle plans, or how I’ll implement this one.
  • Existing Habits to sustain / bolster:
    • Healthy sleep hygiene habits started in 2012.  Need to review my obstacle plans and see if there’s anything I can do to support this habit (it’s a little shaky) – e.g. figuring out something to do for shut-off hour, and possibly getting a fit bit for monitoring.
    • Walking everywhere – could add some additional scenarios to this – more stairs, longer routes, etc.
    • Healthy eating habits
    • Reading habits

I’d like to add writing and creating to this list as one I’d like to create, but I’m not going to push it. I think if I create space in the habits I’ve listed above, I’ll naturally turn to creating.

4 thoughts on ““Making Habits, Breaking Habits” by Jeremy Dean

  1. Pingback: Left-brain v Right-brain « A.K. Anderson | Science Fiction and Fantasy Author

  2. Pingback: Delayed Gratification « A.K. Anderson | Science Fiction and Fantasy Author

  3. Pingback: 2013 Retrospective | . A.K. Anderson

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