It seems to me that the horrors man has wreaked on the environment are, largely, rooted in ‘bad habits’. I ask around here, ‘Why do people drop trash and chewing gum in the streets?’. The answer is always ‘People have always done that.’ Yet I see pristine beaches where ‘someone else’ has taken charge, posted signs, installed separating bins and even put guards there to make sure that the beaches are clean and not stripped bare for their shell, rock and fish harvest. Not quite sure who is paying for this but clearly, the beaches are high priority tourist magnets and bring some kind of benefit. Whereas, the little nearby towns have slipped through the cracks, the focus is on impressing foreigners in the areas of ritzy resorts.
Which brings me to my rambling thoughts today!
How often do we lapse into bad habits simply because we place ourselves lower down the ranking of ‘entitlement’ than we could? Once you realize that the key to survival and living well relates to self-care FIRST (remember the old survival rule … ‘save yourself first and then save others when you are in a position to do so because an injured helper is of limited use to others’) you can start to assess how much of your life IS conscious ‘self-care; and how much is just a bunch of learned habits.
I believe that most of what we do, particularly as we age, is habit-based. This is stuff foisted on us by parents, peers and teachers and you need to sift out what you do consciously from the habits and see what really adds benefit to life in general. As a child I was a nail-biter. It took me YEARS to figure out that this was a habit I could break. In fact, it took two instances of strangers commenting (one at a posh shop where I was demoted from my holiday job on the glove counter and the other a leading society hairdresser who demanded I wear gloves when making deliveries to her in another holiday job) for me to get that ‘wake-up call’. Of course, it has been a battle maintaining my nails that were damaged badly in childhood through the infections and so on that come with nail-biting. Not even that pain had been enough to stir me up before the scathing comments of others worked a trick. I resolved not to let any aspect of my life become blind habit after that experience. What has this got to do with the environment? It has a lot. We shop, use, eat, drink, use time and make consumption choices by habit for the most part. If you assess carefully what you do in your day, I am sure that every one of us will find something in each day that is a complete waste of life. Trust me, life is too short to waste a moment doing stupid stuff!
Avoiding moral or value judgments here, but think of how much money, time and pure air is tied up in the tobacco industry! I am always fuming about so-called ‘environmentalists’ who smoke. One cigarette can pollute an entire beach with its foul smoke and the butts people bury in the sand can end up in the stomachs of fish. So stop smoking! Yes, there are physical concerns of nicotine addiction and so on, but it is more about task avoidance and something to fiddle with for shy people in social situations, I believe.
Here are a few tips to make quitting ANY bad habit a bit easier. The key is generally to replace them with good habits! Each single bad habit you break will give you the strength to break others.
- Take some time each day to harness your conscious self. Look in the mirror and have faith that you are tough enough to make it through the day. When you see the adversity some people face each day, the agony of change is NOTHING. You may, at this point decide to journal your day or week to see exactly what it is you do with your time.
- Don’t blame anyone but yourself. It’s no longer your parents’ fault if you are over 21! Learn from their mistakes and break the cycle of thoughtless behaviour. People in the 1950s lived a LOT conforming to some mythical set of ‘rules’ which just burdened them with feelings of guilt and worthlessness. Some religions are based on this. You don’t have to dump your ethics but how about thinking them through carefully?
- ANALYSE the habit. For instance, do you LOVE that cigarette? Would you stand over a chemical fire and breathe smoke into your lungs while doing the drawback? Do you love your face when you habitually frown and say ‘no…but …’ as a response to any idea suggested by another, do you love junk food more than the feeling of being fit, do you love seeing garbage and gum in the streets? What is the LOGIC behind your habit?
- Replace the bad habit with something logical. If your bad habit costs money, open a bank account and put that money there to save for something meaningful. Or direct your cigarette money to Kiva loans and see what these can do for the world.
- Consider carefully the ‘chain of consequences’ of things you do. Make a strong commitment for a week (or start with a day) to do NOTHING that you have not carefully considered in regard to the medium to long-term effect. This works well for dieting, by the way. Don’t eat that Tim-Tam!
- Specifically for dietary bad habits – spend some time visualizing that greasy burger or other junk food as nauseating. Believe me, that works. You can even do the same with cheese and Cadbury Dairy Milk by convincing yourself that these are really just a lump of ugly lard by other names. Create new, easy habits. Teach yourself to love a standard, nutritional breakfast every day – for instance, oatmeal with fresh fruit. Take a pita wrap or its ingredients for lunch each day. Just make it a habit and consciously appreciate the good it is doing for your body, purse and world. Routine is a great dietary tool.
- If you habitually drive, walk or take the bus one day a week at the start and make it your day to dash briskly to the bus stop, take a book and read all those classic novels you shirked during your school years. Persevere with the dense material. At the end you WILL be smarter.
- Take up some hobby that requires practice and something to engage both your brain and your hands – whether that be golf, piano playing, knitting, swimming – and commit to it. Pick something free or cheap so that the ‘subscription’ cost is not a factor in your motivation. Too many people just drop out when the dues are next up for renewal. Learn something off by heart even if it is just tables or maybe the words of songs of Eminem. (that’s a challenge!) Self respect will follow. Yes, even with the ability to rap without cheat sheets!
- Gambling is wreaking havoc in the world presently diverting funds to the already-mogul-like rich who don’t really put in as much as they could (Buffett & Gates perhaps excepted neither of whom made money from casinos but from hard work and savvy) . To break the gambling habit it is necessary to bring reality into your conscious brain and avoid venues like the plague. Take pictures of your family and things you love and stand these on the poker machines when you play. They didn’t call them ‘one-armed bandits’ for nothing!! Gambling has been labelled an addiction and I believe that is to create an industry. Yes, it is hard to stop but it is YOU doing this. Learn to discipline your own behaviour, own it.
- Chemical addictions such as to drugs have their own problems. If nicotine, start with patches. If other drugs, get professional help but all these points still apply.
- From time to time, clean out your clothing cupboards. Strip each one bare. Get rid of things you will never wear. Buy some of those nice, swish coat-hanger systems and re-do the wardrobe. This will create a powerful feeling of control.
- Do the same to each area of your house. Get rid of out-of-date food. Get that carb soda cleaner going!
- Rip any plants out of your garden that don’t perform and replace them with something totally unexpected. For instance, you may have a mediocre rose garden. Pot up your roses, sell them on eBay and with the money, put veges in.
- Don’t keep company with people just because they are old friends. They may, instead, be old enemies. Think about this! Friendship can just be a matter of habit and you can talk each other down far easier than up. Misery loves company. This is about YOU, not others.
- Nothing that is ‘instant’ can be relied upon in the long term for satisfaction. Think of a box of instant mashed potato and how revolting that tastes compared with a freshly dug up new potato boiled in its jacket! The latter takes longer but is worth it and has no chemicals to confuse the body nor a packet to clutter up the world.
There are many more techniques that can be used. Ask friends (real friends) for help or trusted family but explain to them that it is no help for them to shout ‘caught you’ when you are sprung breaking your resolve. The right approach is ‘OK, you can start again, now.’
With your new good habits the world will be by far a better place to live in! Good luck!