Habits and Happiness Part Two: Being Mindful

Time to “fess up”.  I set myself an overall goal of changing some habits, in order to lose weight.  My progress is listed in the table below.




Work-out at health club at last 3 x weekly Monday to Friday


Worked out at health club one day


Eat healthy diet cutting down on saturate fats


Did OK but had burger at Fulham V Roma game and largely over ate during week


Stop drinking on weekdays and when I do offset it by drinking less on weekends.


Did badly few pints with mates watching Champions league football. Few more pints Thursday watching Fulham Roma. No offsetting.


So overall I didn’t do very well. Most of you will have spotted that my habit breaking goals aren’t very SMART. They are sort of  Specific as I have outlined some behaviours I need to change, but only in a half- hearted way. They are sort of Measureable as I have set out some objectives but they are vague and woolly. So my means by which to gauge them will be as well.  Are they Achievable?. Well I think they are but I am obviously finding it difficult. That means they may not be Realistic, and of course I haven’t put any Time-lines around them.

 In short my habit changing steps were a cop out and I did almost exactly what I have done. An old coaching saw says:. “If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting”.  

Now for a bit more science. One of the key issues about habit changing is that you need to be aware and mindful of the habit to change it.  I am going to concentrate on mindfulness here though I won’t be going into its deeper aspects like meditation. Take Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Sufferers of OCD cannot break extreme ingrained habits like chronic hand-washing rituals. Leading neuroscientist Jeffrey Schwarz’s has helped OCD sufferers change by using mindfulness techniques. Sufferers have an incentive to try mindfulness because most existing therapies were somewhat cruel. For example hand washers could be forced to smear their hands with excrement and sit for long periods without washing to re-acquaint them with the real reason for hand washing. Nice! Schwarz’s breakthrough was that encouraging people to reflect and think about the habits of OCD ( to develop mindfulness) was much more humane, helpful and effective, because it acted on a part of the brain known as the “worry circuit”.  http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/549

Incidentally, I hope the worry circuit is real because I can’t help thinking of “Shatner Bassoon” An ingenious fake medical term coined by the satirist Chris Morris. I am assured that the “worry circuit” is real but you never know!


 Now as I shared with you last week I am aware that I needed to lose weight but I wasn’t mindful. Thankfully, I am now more mindful because I have written it down and shared it. That’s a key tip on changing behaviour and to get mindfulness. Write it down and share it. Now I am going to sit down this evening and write down a SMARTER approach to changing my bad habits and getting the positive payback of being less porky. I am hoping this will work. If it doesn’t I have plenty of excuses from psychology, neuroscience and behavioural economics to line up in my defence!  Since I want to change I won’t use those intellectual alibis. Luckily I also have some great advice from all of you out there. Thanks to Mark from Brighton for this insight.

“ In order to break a habit you need a “conscious practice”. This will take around 90 days to embody. This is what 12 step programs use for starters”.

So next week I will take action to develop that conscious practice.


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