I never realized I was such a creature of habit. Be it the passage of time or be it decades of denial finally wearing off, a few days ago I came to the conclusion that having stable routines actually decreases stress rather than increasing it. Witness, for example, Springy G's weekday routine:
- 6:40 - Clock radio comes on with local CBC Radio One morning show. Acknowledge it begrudgingly but stay in bed, stretching legs and petting any cats who happen to be in the area.
- 7:00 - Out of bed. Really. (If I'm really fast, I can hit the "off" button on the clock radio before hearing the obnoxious news theme.) Straighten bedspread to keep pillowcases from getting totally obliterated by cat hair in My absence. Head for bathroom, stopping at nightstand for glasses and the thong on which I wear My oath ring and Mjölnir, and turn on the stairway light.
- 7:10 - Morning ablutions complete. Am now dressed and headed downstairs, sometimes with a cat escort. Fill tea kettle and turn on. Scrape cats' food plate and put in sink to soak. Turn on dining room light and turn off nightlight in living room. Feed fish. Raid fruit bowl in dining room and select 1 or 2 pieces for coffee breaks and lunch. Grab a can of soda for lunch as well.
- 7:15 - Pour hot water for tea. Finish washing and drying cats' plate, and serve up half a can, calling out "Food for the bay-bees!" Get lunch bag from hook on back door; insert drinks and fruit; add other items from fridge (ideally, some leftovers packed the night before). Put filled lunch bag in purse.
- 7:20 - Breakfast, usually cereal, tea and milk. Eat standing up at the kitchen counter. Pause to put on shoes or boots, then finish eating.
- 7:26 - Put on coat, grab purse, lock house, walk to bus stop.
I didn't just wake up one Monday morning and decide that I had to do things in that order at those times, though. This weekday routine got built up out of necessity, piece by piece, and I keep using it because it works extremely well.
Ironically, I never thought I would like having such a predictable, formal routine. Its power, though, is undeniable. That got Me thinking: What else can I use habitual behaviours for?
Well, how about using a habit to break a habit? Specifically, how about cultivating deliberate indifference to make one's cravings less alluring, and dreaded tasks less daunting?
"Want to go out for a burger?"
"It's 12:30 in the morning. I'll just play one game of Spider solitaire and... Meh."
"Forecast is for rain this evening, and all day tomorrow. I don't really want to mow the lawn, but... Meh."
Preliminary investigations indicate that raging apathy seems to work better than attempting to fight one's passions to the death. In fact, I've found that the passions seem to naturally weaken through attrition -- If you don't entertain them, they'll eventually get bored and wander off all by themselves.
I could probably write a whole self-help book about this, but -- *Meh* Better just finish this post and get ready for bed.