The Test Habits….

As a type-A personality, I wasn’t going to put myself out there without testing the waters first.  When I first had this idea to incorporate new habits into my life, it was back in August.  I wanted to see if this was a feasible idea and if I would actually be able to do this and stick to the new habits before going public.

So I decided to try out a couple “test” habits before sharing my ideas.  The first habit was a relatively easy one but when I told my husband about it, his initial reaction was “You are going to tell people about that?”  And my answer was “Yes.  It’s important to me and although some people will be grossed out, many mothers will totally get it”.

So what was the first habit?  It was to brush my teeth and wash my face every night before bed.  For many years, with two boys 2 years apart and immeasurable chaos in our lives, I was just counting my blessings to make it to bedtime with everyone intact.  I was exhausted.    Truth be told, most nights I didn’t even change my clothes before bed.  I would put on pajama pants but I would just wear the camisole that I put on most days under my shirt and fall into bed.  I was lucky though.  People always tell me I have great skin and the dentist always comments that it’s clear that I take good care of my teeth.  Little does he know.

But in the back of my head, I felt like my luck was going to run out.  If I didn’t start taking care of my skin and teeth, I was worried about aging prematurely and getting cavities.  Plus there is loads of research that shows that poor oral hygiene can lead to other health concerns, like heart disease.  So I started washing my face.  Nothing fancy.  Just a wash.  I am never going to be one of those women with a multi-step facial care ritual.  I also started brushing my teeth and flossing too!   I started this new habit on Aug 21 and I am happy to say that I have not missed a single day.  It doesn’t matter how exhausted I am anymore.  It has indeed become a firmly entrenched habit.

The second test habit had to do with water.  As a naturopath, I always tell my patients to drink half of their body weight in ounces.  So a 140-pound woman would drink 70 ounces of waters.  64 ounces is the equivalent to 2 liters so she’d need a little over 2 liters daily.  Now I am not going to tell you how much I am supposed to drink but suffice it to say that many days, I wasn’t getting enough.  I always got 1-2 liters in, but I wanted to make this a priority and get at least 2 liters.  I feel that the things we do everyday-eat, sleep, drink-are the places that the small changes will have the most impact.

I have to say that it’s hard for me to say whether or not I have truly succeeded at getting in my 2 plus liters of water.  With the first habit, it was easy to measure, I either did it or I didn’t but with this second habit, unless I measure and log every drink I take, it’s harder to tell.   But I have definitely been drinking more water and I am certainly making an effort everyday.  As I sit here at 7:30 in the morning, the first thing I did was make a coffee.  But while the coffee was brewing, I had a big glass of water.  I think that’s a good indication that things are moving in the right direction.

I also bought a 1.25 liter water bottle.  Two of those surpass my daily quota.

This will certainly make my success at this habit more measurable.

And you know what?  I noticed that since I started drinking more water, I crave less chocolate.  It might be a coincidence, but I’ll take it.

Today, I started my first “official” new habit.  It will be a tough one but the signs are evident that I need to do it.  Watch out for next week’s post.

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Step 1: The Need for Change

My name is Rahima Hirji.  I am a Naturopathic Doctor,  a wife, a mother, a runner, a baker and a cook and the past 18 months of my life have been brutal.

I am not complaining.  By all measures, I am living the dream.  I have two beautiful boys after struggling with infertility for 3 years.  I have a very successful husband and we are both lucky to have jobs that we love.  I own my own thriving practice.  I  “work” part-time.  We just bought and are renovating our dream home.  Seriously, I have it made.

So why has my life been so brutal?  Because living the dream requires a lot of work.  In the last 18 months, I have moved cities, and then moved into two relatively tiny condos (my house was 3700 square feet and the condos we moved into were barely 1100-still big by some standards but it’s all relative). Finally, we moved into our home that only recently stopped resembling a construction zone.  I opened my clinic in Kitchener in Jan 2012, the same month that I moved to Toronto.  What can I say? It seemed like a good idea at the time.  I commute 2 hours 2-3 days a week.  Our renovation of the heritage home we bought in Toronto turned out to be a nightmare and almost broke my already strained marriage.  The week we moved, my son slipped and got a concussion.  On top of all that, I have a neurological condition that is worsened by stress.

So why did I decide to start this blog?  Because, one morning, I woke up and realized that things were getting better.  The house was no longer a complete disaster.  Not finished by any means, but resembling less a construction zone and more of a home.   My days were not completely filled with talking to contractors, getting estimates and driving around the city for tiles, paint, doorknobs and door stops.  You’d be amazed how many door stops you need when you are building a home.  My nights were no longer filled with worry, I was sleeping again and my hair stopped falling out.

So I decided I wanted to start enjoying my life again, instead of waiting for the stress to go away.  I want to thrive despite it.  It certainly helped that we booked a 2-week vacation at a cottage.  It allowed me time to look beyond my to-do list and focus on other things-like the fact that I am turning 40 in 2014.   In 60 weeks to be precise.  I am pretty sure I am not having a mid-life crisis, but the looming birthday has certainly made me think of who I want to be on that day.

Now, we’ve all woken up on a Monday morning and declared that that was the day that we were going to change our lives.  We were going to eat better, exercise more, drink more water, drink less wine and sleep more and then by Thursday, we are reaching for the wine after the fries and ice cream.   I am not interested in a repeat performance of that.  I want to stop watching the years go by while I try to make the changes that I feel are important for me but I need to find a better way to make those changes.

While I was at the cottage, I read an article that stated that it takes about 21 days to integrate a new habit into your life.  If you do something for 21 days, you have a pretty good chance of making that “something” a permanent change in your life.  This was not new information to me, but since there was room in my brain for new ideas for a change, it made me start thinking.  Maybe this was the answer. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to successfully change everything on any given Monday, but maybe, if I broke things down into 21 day chunks, I could make a reasonable dent by my 40th birthday.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I am not a complete disaster.  I am pretty well put together.  I eat pretty well.  I am a Naturopath afterall.  I exercise.  I don’t smoke and I don’t drink excessively.  I sleep well and my health has been stable despite an initial bad prognosis.

But I want to be better.  We all have to strive for improvement.  So I am going to make a list of the 21 habits that I want to change by my 40th birthday in 3-4 week increments.  Some will be trivial and easy and others will be hard.   I will blog about them as a way to keep myself honest and on track.  I would love any feedback on my habits and my progress.  My hope is that by my 40th birthday, I will be able to look back and be able to say that the 60 weeks to 40 were the defining weeks in my life and that the changes I make will not only better my life, but the lives of my husband and sons.