Our personality can be conceived as an amorphous grouping of our preferences that have slowly built up over our lifespan. It was our ceaseless practice of small actions that eventuated as reflexive habits and behavioural quirks. We forget this in adulthood, taking things that we had spent decades learning and honing for granted, taking it out on ourselves for not picking up or sticking with a new routine, and giving up in the face of slight difficulty.
A way I like to reframe skill acquisition for my therapy and counseling clients is to bring in the idea of baby steps. We aren’t even going to call it walking; let us just start with putting a foot forward and feeling the weight of us on this new ground. We can’t fly if we can’t run; can’t run if we can’t walk; can’t walk if we can’t crawl; can’t crawl if we can’t feel our feet on the ground.
Being kind to ourselves is at the heart of it all. It is easy to feel discouraged after the gazillionth time failing at building a new habit or routine, and to resign ourselves to a vicious cycle of defeat and demoralisation.
In addition, the ubiquity of instant gratification through smartphones and delivery services (South Korea has an exceptionally well-defined domestic express delivery service industry) makes us forget that life was not always this speedy. Life before mobile phones and the Internet, anyone?
Wilmer, Sherman, and Chein’s (2017) review in Frontiers of Psychology shares just how our cognitive functioning has been affected by smartphone technology, even in the absence of active device usage. When tasked with something requiring attention, we are comparably distracted merely being exposed to smartphone notifications as we would be were we actively messaging or taking a call. That is to say, simply hearing, seeing, or sensing your device’s notifications serves to distract through triggering task-irrelevant thoughts that affect your task performance in a detrimental way.
Furthermore, even the physical presence of a smartphone (get this, it does not even have to be your own phone) may negatively impact performance on cognitively demanding tasks.
Little wonder why most of us may now have difficulty focusing and maintaining efforts on habit creation. But let’s not all blame this on the device without which you wouldn’t be accessing this article or my website.
Remember, you weren’t born into this world with your current level of general knowledge and linguistic abilities. These know-how and skills came about following hard effort and no doubt several roadblocks in life. However, having a simple, actionable plan can serve as an anchor for us to regroup and remember what it is we hope to build into a positive routine.
The following infographic breaks down the self-care steps identified in last month’s post on the power of gratitude into an easy 5-day plan for you to try from today.
Keep it simple and less is more. Just keep these five items in mind and repeat them regularly to form a new habit of gratitude and kindness. And keep your smartphone out of sight while you do so.
To learn more about self-care and how you can start putting yourself first on your priority list, connect for a free 15-minute phone consultation.