What is a habitual pattern?
Simply put: A habitual pattern is an action, thought, or other behavior that one does without deliberately thinking about it. Some great examples are nail biting, pacing while on the phone, or even bad posture.
We develop these patterns over time, and often we don’t notice them unless they cause an issue or someone points them out.
For the nail biting, it could be that you cause damage to your gums or teeth, or get an infection from an open wound around your fingertips. Pacing while on the phone can cause someone to point out that they hear you walking, and it’s distracting them from the conversation. Poor posture can lead to back pain and cause long-term issues like disc degeneration, rounded shoulders, and much more.
What does a habitual pattern have to do with the New Year?
This is the time of year when most people are focused on the changes they want to see in their lives. Generally, it’s physical things like being healthier in food choices, moving the body more, or vowing to set alarms and reminders to keep themselves on schedule.
The reason people often choose this time has roots back as far as ancient Roman times. Skipping ahead a few centuries, we see that early Christians used the New Year as a time to reflect on their mistakes and resolve to do better. Some civilizations used the harvesting and planting of crops as their ‘new year’ and would celebrate that time in a similar manner.
But the overarching theme around all of the traditions is this: We see most ends and beginnings as a great time to reflect, and take the opportunity to move ourselves forward in a healthy direction.
What do habitual patterns have to do with grief?
Let’s address this question by defining what grief is. At the Integrated Wellbeing Institute, we recognize that Grief is not a single emotion. It is the umbrella for many, many emotions: Despair, anguish, loneliness, sorrow, deep sadness, rage, abandonment, anxiety, depression, guilt, shame, and fear—to name only a few.
While we’re in the midst of grief, certain habitual patterns can develop. One may notice that their back, neck, and shoulders have more aches and pains than usual because our shoulders are hunched down under the weight of grief. We may notice that we avoid certain places, people, or memories because we’re afraid they may trigger a wave of emotion.
What can we do about habitual patterns?
First, we have to notice them. It can be quite easy to fall into a pattern without even realizing it! In order to notice what we’re doing, we have to be present at all times. A great way to do this is scheduling self check-ins throughout the day. Some people like to set alarms or reminders on their phones so they don’t forget.
During a self check-in, ask yourself:
- What am I doing physically right now? Am I pacing, staring out into space, or biting my lips?
- How does my body feel right now? Do I notice pain anywhere? Is my heart rate normal? Do I feel anxiety in my gut?
- How am I feeling right now? Am I content, sad, lonely, or overwhelmed? Do I feel like I’m being true to my feelings, or hiding them?
After noticing our habits, we next need to determine why we have these habitual patterns.Remember, you can do a self check-in at any time, anywhere. If you notice yourself doing something like biting your nails, do a check-in and see what you’re feeling and analyze what may have triggered you. Was it a memory, stress, or even just being plain tired?
Once you identify the triggers, you can work to be more conscious of your habitual patterns and reset the ones that do not serve you. And what better time to do it than now, the beginning of a new year?
Love all around, above, below, to the left and to the right, before you and behind you,
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