Chapter one of 21 Days to Resilience by Dr. Zelana Montminy prompts readers to consider their habits. An audit of my habits clearly shows that I spend way too much time looking at my iPhone. Much of my day involves staring at a screen and that is a habit I want to change. I use my iPhone to wake up, to distract from tedious tasks such as commuting, getting ready for the day and eating, and as a pacifier when I’m feeling bad or need to wind down for bed. In fact, I’ve actually started thinking of my phone as a pacifier. While it may distract me from feeling bad, it also allows me to avoid dealing with those feelings. It also distracts me from really engaging with the people and things around me and from the sparks of inspiration that occur when I’m marching through the boring parts of my day. (I’m looking at you, shower-time.)
Even before I did an audit of my habits, I knew my reliance on my iPhone was something I needed to change. My 40 before 40 goals are telling in that they not only include iPhone avoidance goals (a social media detox and a nightly iPhone curfew), but they also include positive goals I want to replace my iPhone habit with, such as regular exercise, journaling, home projects and reading.
The book encourages readers to introduce new cues that will assist with cultivating a good habit to replace those habits you want to change. One cue I identified to replace my habit of iPhone surfing after work with exercise, is to change into workout clothes as soon as I get home from work. Another cue I can implement, in order to replace my morning surfing with Bible study, is to use a different device for my alarm clock and keep my journal handy. Lastly, I’ve started packing a book in my work lunch bag to break my habit of web surfing during lunch and replace it with more reading.
Another tip Dr. Montminy is to change your environment. If your surroundings spark a bad habit, change your surroundings. This strategy worked for me when I quit smoking ten years ago. I took advantage of a long winter break from grad school to quit smoking. Because our digital devices are so pervasive and few places have instituted a “no cell phones” rule, changing my environment in order to discourage social media browsing is a little more difficult. That said, I plan to step away from my desk to eat lunch. I am also planning to park my cell phone in the office area that serves as a transition from the carport to the rest of the house when I get home. If I quit carrying my phone around with me when I get home, I will rely on it less as a boredom pacifier.
My plan to leave my phone in the office is an example of a hybrid between the “change your environment” strategy and the next strategy Dr. Montiminy outlines: removing the bad habit cue. Since I won’t have my cue (my phone) for social media browsing with me at all times, it makes it more difficult to engage with that bad habit.
This chapter is a good starting place for anyone who wants to do a quick survey of their habits. If you really want to dig deeper into the topic, however, I recommend reading Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin. Rubin dives deeply into multiple strategies for changing our habits.