Why I’m the perfect person to talk about habits

addictions and habits

You name it. From green tea to charity shop shopping, I’ve found a way to be compulsive about most of life’s pleasures. © Laura Eades 2011 all rights reservedSimple

  1. Because I’m beset by them.
  2. Because I have spent more time at the mercy of them than most people.
  3. Because I’ve spent more time reading about, and trying to change them, than most people.

Me? – habits? – I’m not exactly a role model

Friends may find this funny. They know me as the one with the overflowing handbag. My husband knows me as the (now reformed) clutterer, the one who collected an attic full of theatre props which I would perhaps one day use. My brother, doubtless, who is very organised and lives quite a realistic and pleasant life, would consider me a very poor example indeed of habits – he makes sarcastic jokes on Skype about how ‘tidy’ my flat is. The fact is, my life is tidier, less enslaved, and happier, than its ever been.

I’m not writing this blog because I’m a shining example. I’m writing it because I’m a very smudgy example. But you can buff off tarnish with Brasso.

And I’ve had enough success to think I’m onto something. So here I am, every day a bit shinier. It takes a lot of elbow-grease, I can tell you.

I’ve been compelled to find out how to beat habits

Shopping – yes I’ve done that, a lot. Coffee in excess; half a bottle of wine a night; non-stop toast toasting – yes, that’s been me. Diet Coke, green tea, brown tea, hot drinks in general – I’ve necked countless. Finger and toepicking – tell me about it. Spotpicking – my teens were plagued by the shameful evidence. Cluttering, workaholism, siestas that turn into depressed sleepathons… the list goes on.

I haven’t just been bothered by my habits. They have been wilfully, inevitably, horribly, misery-makingly self-destructive. (Only, if you know me, you might think they are all part of the creative process. Believe me, I sincerely hope my creativity functions without their negative energy!)

I’ve also been a chronic snacker, a high-quantity binger, and a maltloaf addict. I’m joking at my own expense, but actually from the ages of about 15 to 21 I would have easily fitted a Bulimia picture, and getting over it was a transformative experience that I’d like to share the gains of with the world at large. I’m still working at my (over)eating habits, trying to create more positive ways of being in relation to food, and to lose the self-destructive things I do (why did I eat a whole giant tin of chickpeas? for example). But since I recently lost weight and I’m finding more and more a really happy relationship with food, I’d like to share the learning and blog it so I don’t forget it. And since talking about it is so much more complex than just giving the usual ‘hey, exercise more and reduce your calorie intake’ diet advice, and is normally so riddled with shame, I think someone had better speak the unspeakable about this. I put my hand up.

Am I an ‘addictive personality’?

I’ve written a separate post about this, because it’s quite a deep topic. It’s a valuable one to consider, though, because with ‘addiction’ come questions about the wider picture of your life – your social situations, beliefs, emotional past and present, as well as your genetic disposition. Which is why I’m blogging about the whole happiness picture, and not just the day-to-day patterns like How to Stop Nosepicking (though that is also eminently valid).

I don’t know if I’m an ‘addictive personality’. I know I form habits more quickly, more frequently, and more problematically than my loved ones. I watch my husband enviously as he’s ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ about a beer in the evening, or walking past the icecream shop that sold us a heavenly scoop yesterday. I don’t really like labelling myself – at least, I’d fend if possible against that becoming a self-limiting belief. So if you asked, I’d say this:

“I’m an exceptionally habitual person, and I’m still finding ways to turn that trait to my advantage”.

What camp do you inhabit? 

So if you’re one of those people to whom happiness comes naturally, and good habits are easy to nail, then I invite you to contribute to my cause and tell me, What are the mechanisms that make this so? What are you doing naturally that I can emulate?

And if you’re someone who has created a bad habit from pretty much anything that they ever liked doing once, or who has one or two to iron out, then I invite you to accompany me, who is learning the hard way, but learning nonetheless, how this brain of mine works.