Remake Your Habits (Minimalist Challenges Part 11)

I'm confronting the reality that I have a sugar addiction.  Without thinking, I add sugar and cream to my morning coffee and jam on my toast.  After lunch, I have a piece of chocolate or a cookie.  (I relieve my guilt by choosing small chocolates or cookies.)  Then a large mug of sweet and milky tea.  After dinner, perhaps a cup of sweetened Greek yogurt.  (Again the justification – it has live cultures and plenty of protein.)

Do I eat and drink these things because I'm truly hungry or thirsty?  And if I am, wouldn't black coffee, unsweetened tea, and water with lemon be better choices?  How about an apple or a banana?  Or plain yogurt with some berries?  (There's a large strawberry patch currently selling sun-ripened fruit just minutes from my house.)

fresh-picked strawberries

On auto-pilot

My bad habits – like anyone's – are mindless.  I don't decide on them – I just do them.  Which is, of course, what makes them habits and hard to break.  I'm not sure I even enjoy the sweetness, because I'm not usually paying much attention while I ingest it.  It's not adding to my happiness

Too many of us trudge through the day.  We get up, go to work, take care of the chores and the kids, pay the bills, and go to bed, waking up to do it all over again.  Time slips past unnoticed and days blur together.

Sadly, this mechanical existence is so common that we think it's normal.  It doesn't make us happy, so we do all we can to distract ourselves.  How do we make it through another day?

  • We pick up our phones and scroll, click, post, like, etc.
  • We turn on whatever TV series we're currently binging.
  • We enter the world of our favorite video game, creating or fighting to defend something that only exists in pixels on a screen.
  • We go shopping for the latest trends and deals.
  • We dream about the weekend.
  • We consume junk food.
  • We eat something sweet or drink something alcoholic.

We emerge from any of these activities surprised by how much time has passed, how much money we've spent, or how ill and wasted we feel because of what we've consumed.  We've successfully distracted ourselves from our boring, uninspired lives, but at what cost?

The next several challenges are designed to help you start to get off auto-pilot and break some of the habits that may be keeping you from a happier, simpler, more satisfying life.  I know that a one-day experience won't remake a long-term lifestyle.  But one day provides the first step and the inspiration to continue.

Try-it-for-a-day Challenges #4-6

4.  Practice mindfulness.

We are so used to operating on auto-pilot that we fail to notice most of the beauties around us.  Paying attention will not only reward us with a lot of pleasure, but will also improve our relationships, efficiency, and life satisfaction.  What do you notice most when you make a commitment to be aware?  What benefits do you experience from your increased focus?

5.  Quit negative self-talk.

Most of us do this way too often.  Negative self-talk adds to our anxiety and stress and steals our joy and confidence.  Practice being as kind to yourself as you would be to a friend.

6.  Abstain.

Try doing without sugar, caffeine, alcohol, soda, junk food, fast food, or something else.  Don't panic – it's only for a day!  It can be hard to break free of these not-so-great choices, but if you can do it for one day, you can do it for a week, or even a month.  You can reestablish control of what goes into your body.  

Decide how you'll replace your now-taboo item.  Which healthier food, drink, or activity will you choose instead?  Evaluate how you feel before deciding if you're going to reintroduce your old habit.


  1. As you said -- our habits are mindless. I recently quit drinking and am using an app that is surprisingly motivating. Besides telling me how many days I've been sober, it surprised me by calculating how much money I've saved. Wow. It's truly eye opening to begin to pay attention to where I've mindlessly been putting my money. Thanks for this series, Karen!

    1. You're welcome, Elizabeth! I appreciate you reading and commenting.

      That app sounds very useful, indeed. What a good idea to track how much money you save by giving up alcohol, or cigarettes, sugar, visiting the casino, eating a lot of meat... whatever. Best wishes to you!


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