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Self-Care Sunday: Developing Healthy Habits

July 8, 2018

This Self-Care Sunday series covers simple things you can do each day to take care of yourself. I keep it very brief, because time is important and not all of us have a lot of it on our hands. This info is not meant to replace any type of therapy you may already be receiving, or any information or advice you may have received from your medical or mental health providers. If anything, this is just extra information from one person who cares to another.

Today's topic is a little bit more complicated than usual, because it can be more long-term and involves multiple components, including patience, failure, and compassion. Most of us want to develop healthy habits and find it extremely difficult. That's okay, most people struggle! Most people also struggle with the definition of "healthy." I am not here to argue what is healthy for you, that is something you decide. However, if you want to develop a habit that you consider healthy and you're starting from scratch, starting small may help you develop that habit in a way that stays.

For example, most diets fail because people will try to change everything about their eating habits all at once. But if you introduce the change little by little, it is more likely to last longer and to become more of a routine for us. This means having patience with ourselves. Not expecting too much too soon. Especially if you're starting something new! Think of the new habit you are trying to develop as a new skill. If you play video games (or, you know, are alive and do stuff) you're familiar with the concept of gaining experience. You select a skill and you practice, and the more you practice the better you get at it. The better you get at it, the more you develop that skill. Developing skills in real life is not much different, and developing a healthy habit involves the skill of self-care.

A big part of developing a healthy habit that nobody really likes to talk about is failure. We like to think that if we do everything right, then we will achieve our goal and everything will work out perfectly. But nothing is perfect in this world, and we have to allow some wiggle room for ourselves. Being okay with approximations, with not succeeding the first time, not meeting our own expectations, or having a setback after a while is sometimes part of developing a new habit. Sometimes, the more times you fail, the more you will succeed, because having failures or setbacks means that you are putting in the work, and perhaps it means you're getting closer and closer to your target.

The component that I think ties everything together is compassion. Caring for ourselves enough to want to develop healthy habits in the first place, having patience with ourselves as we learn a new skill, and being okay with not getting it right sometimes all require compassion. Think of a child learning to swim. How would you teach that child? Would you yell at him when he doesn't get it right, tell him to give up, or encourage him to try again? Most people would encourage that child to keep trying. Why would we treat ourselves any different?

Thanks for reading, and remember to keep swimming. ♥
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