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  • Writer's pictureJessica Harris

Second Nature

This past weekend I was feeling self critical and frustrated because the gap in time between my blog entries was increasing. I realized that I was writing less often than I did early in my goal because I felt like I was out of things to say. The whole reason I started blogging about this year long goal is because it was one way to keep me accountable. I made a commitment to this journey and blogging about it is an important piece.

Then it hit me.

Maybe not having anything to say is a really good sign that maybe I am truly forming a positive habit and lifestyle change. Could I be getting closer to this whole “no drinking thing” becoming second nature? I am realizing that the saying, “all things are difficult before they are easy” is true. This IS becoming easier.

Good habits still require constant commitment.

A habit is defined as a tendency of certain actions to repeat themselves. In the 1960’s a cosmetic surgeon named Maxwell Maltz made popular the phrase that it takes 21 days to form a habit but this was not a scientifically proven number. I feel like I am testing his theory. When I reached 21 days in my year long goal I had maintained my streak BUT I can’t say I changed my habit because mentally I was still thinking about how hard it was and what I was missing. It has taken over 180 days, which is SIX MONTHS to feel significant and rewarding changes. It sure would be easier if it only took 21 days, but I don’t care how long it take because I do feel that my habits are starting to change for the better.

But is it second nature?

In the article Habit Formation: The 21-Day Myth, Jason Selk explains that when we make a habit of doing something, it creates a particular pattern of our behaviour. The pattern of behaviour becomes almost automatic as a result of repetition of the same thing over a long period of time. This is when a habit becomes second nature. It was pretty clear to me back in April that drinking was second nature for me. Having a glass of wine in the evenings, ordering cocktails while dining out, bar hopping during girls night, beers at the movie theater, beers at festivals, cocktails at every holiday and family party was the norm. It was an easy habit but in my opinion not the most healthy habit.

I read an article called Amplification: Habit is Second Nature that explains our behaviour is dictated by our nature. It does not require any training; it is automatic. But if we do something, which is not consistent with our nature, we have to do it with conscious effort. I didn’t come out of the womb wanting to drink cocktails, it was definitely a conscious choice I made the very first time I had my first drink. It was years of repetition that caused drinking to become a habit and almost automatic.

If having a glass of wine every night was easy and became a habit, why shouldn't choosing to NOT have a glass of wine become second nature? I think I am on track for this lifestyle change to become second nature. I like that I don’t think about my goal every day now. I like that most days I don’t think I need a glass of wine to unwind. The act of choosing not to drink has become easier. This choice is almost done without thinking now.

All things are difficult before they are easy

For something to become second nature, it takes discipline and sacrifice. For example, if a person wants financial saving to become second nature they will have to practice discipline in purchasing things they may really want, or sacrifice fun travel opportunities but these choices will ensure financial security in the future. Similarly, if a person wants exercising at the gym to become second nature they will have be disciplined enough to schedule a workout into their daily routine and possibly sacrifice time with friends or watching their favorite tv show. Once they hit the gym regularly for long period of time it eventually becomes routine and automatic.

I knew when I started this goal that I needed to shift my mindset. I new if I wanted to truly transform my lifestyle, I would need to have constant discipline and sacrifice in order to see the long term effects. I would have to change my perception of what girls night, date night, travel and holidays look like. I would have to practice some serious self control during those moments when I just wanted to hit the pause button on my goal. There have been many difficulties that I have blogged about along the way and I know I will face a few more as we enter the holiday season. However, I am excited about the shift that has happened halfway through my journey. Not drinking alcohol isn’t quite second nature yet, but it sure is easier and beautiful.

The hard must become habit, the habit must become easy, the easy then becomes beautiful.- Doug Henning

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