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Day 5: The importance of habits and routines

I was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) a few years ago. I could easily write a very lengthy and very detailed post about what being diagnosed with ADHD as an adult is like, but suffice it to say, my diagnosis and treatment have highlighted the importance of habits and routines in my life. Habits and routines aren’t just important for people with ADHD like myself though, they benefit everyone.

In my Day 1 and Day 3 posts, I mentioned Charles Duhigg’s habit book. Obviously, I really like this book, and with good reason – it’s a great resource for learning about habits and how to change them. In the part of his book where he discusses keystone habits, Duhigg specifically mentions willpower as “the single most important keystone habit for individual success.” He considers willpower a habit.

I can’t explain Duhigg’s reasoning as to why willpower is habit. It’s something you really have to read for yourself, but I do want to try and share what I took away from the ideas he shared: basically, whenever you have to make a decision or complete a task that requires some thought, you use willpower. The more thought or effort you have to put into each decision or task, the more willpower you use, and unfortunately, willpower is a finite resource. You only have so much of it to use each day. Habits are automatic, so you use less brain power to do them. If you create habits and routines for the things you have to do throughout the day, you’ll conserve willpower and be able to use it for other things, like cutting back on junk food.

Although I’m still trying to change my habits and figure out what routines work best for me, I’ve determined that my morning routine of waking up at 5:00 am, having a light snack, and working out right afterwards, make my day begin a lot smoother. I’m by no means a morning person, but the more consistent I am in sticking with that routine, the easier it becomes. As I mentioned in my Day 3 post, you don’t really get rid of your habits. Yesterday I realized that this applies to good habits as well. Despite numerous weeks of “falling off the wagon,” waking up early and working out yesterday wasn’t as hard as I had expected it to be. My day went a lot smoother too. I had a lot more energy, got stuff done, and I was in a much better mood. I also hit my step goal fairly easily and logged all my food. Not too shabby.

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