H is for Habits

Definition: An acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary.

Habits…we all have them, even if we don’t realise it. They are the things which shape us, create the person we are, the body we have and the mental attitude we hold. They are behavioural routines which tend to be unconscious and often (apparently) very difficult to alter.

As we all know, habits can be positive or negative, and often it is the mental battle to change from negative to positive which defeats us. One recurring area we deal with at Global Therapies relates to postural habits. The way you hold your body in your daily life can have a massive effect on how you feel. For instance, the action of routinely reaching for something that’s just too far out of reach (e.g. telephone, books, a piece of equipment) because that’s where it ‘lives’ could contribute to pain and discomfort somewhere in your body. Now imagine you are twisting at the same time as reaching. The added pressure on your spine could cause some muscles to weaken and some to lengthen. You won’t know this, because you only feel the symptoms – the pain, aching, weakness and tiredness.

We’ve both had office jobs and know that tiny changes can make a big difference. If your job is predominantly desk bound (or you work in one fixed space) have a read of this article we wrote a while ago – Desk Jockey’s. Then, evaluate the layout of your workspace – be it a kitchen, office or workshop. Everybody performs actions on a daily basis which become habitual, yet with slight modifications you could reduce the unnecessary strain on your muscles. The evaluations don’t just need to be about workplace – there’s the home environment, where we socialise, clothes we wear, furniture, modes of travel. Now we can’t necessarily change all of them to suit fit an ideal posture, but we can alter how we interact with them.

It’s claimed that a habit can be formed in 21 days but in practice it can take longer. You therefore have to do something daily for (at least) 21 days before it will become an automatic and perhaps unconscious behaviour. If, therefore, your therapist works out that you have short hip flexors on one side and sitting at the same side on the sofa could be compounding this imbalance, you will need to spend a minimum of 3 weeks consciously reminding yourself to sit at the opposite side (or at least mixing it up so the imbalance doesn’t transfer to the opposite side!). The same goes for parents who always pick up their infant on the same side, always wind on the same side and feed them facing the same way.

Here’s some tips on helping you to form a good habit:

  • set up alarms as reminders on a regular basis
  • ask a friend to text you randomly to check you’re still on track
  • put a reminder in your diary/phone (but not every day or you’ll start to ignore the reminder)
  • place strategic messages/notes around the home/workplace
  • reward yourself for sticking with the new habit for a set period (i.e. 1 week, 2 weeks)
  • don’t get discouraged when you slip up – we’re all human

We’ll leave you with this final thought, according to Sandy Fritz, an international author, educationalist and massage therapist “Three major factors influence posture: heredity, disease, and habit.” We can all work out which is the easiest of those to adjust.

Good habits are formed; bad habits we fall into. unknown author

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