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What to do about bad habits

BY AL EARLEY

Sun Columnist

George was proud of how well he had done with his 2020 New Year’s Resolution to exercise regularly and lose weight.  By March he had hit his goal of going to the gym five times a week every week of the new year.  He had lost 20 pounds and was feeling really good about himself…  And then covid hit.  The gym shut down and his routine was blown up.  By the end of 2020 he had gained all the weight back, plus 30 more pounds.  He hadn’t worked out since the quarantine began and felt weak.  He had picked up a host of other bad habits and he didn’t know what to do next.  Does George sound too much like your story???

     The quarantine has had so many bad side effects on the people of our land.  The statistics can make a minister cry: alcoholism up, child abuse up, divorce rate up, depression up, suicide rate up, up, up!  A survey of 2000 adults found that the accumulation of bad habits during quarantine have occurred at truly pandemic levels.  The top bad habits picked up during the quarantine include:  Snacking more throughout the day – 40%, Eating more comfort foods – 39%, Not eating as many fruits and vegetables as they should – 33%, Drinking too much caffeine – 32%, Eating more junk food – 32%, Not eating three meals a day – 31%, Drinking too much alcohol – 26% (only shown to those 21+), Not exercising – 25%, Staying in pajamas all day – 23%.

     Fortunately, these people had New Year’s Resolutions to change in 2021.  The top plans to be healthier in 2021 included: Exercise regularly – 53%, Eat more fruits and vegetables – 51%, Meal planning – 36%, Regulate their sleep schedule – 35%, Jogging – 33%, Portion control – 29%, Fad diet – 23%, Drink less alcohol – 21% (only shown to 21+).  (statistics taken from the The Most Popular Bad Habits People Picked Up During Stressful 2020 – South Florida Reporter).  Unfortunately, the rate of New Year’s Resolution success is estimated at about 20%.  What can one do to change the bad habits started during quarantine?

     First, see bad habits not as behavioral issues but as spiritual issues.  The web has lots of psychological information about how to make hard changes, but it rarely focuses on the change of heart that faith, prayer, and accountability from someone you trust can bring.  I fell into a rut early in the quarantine experience.  My prayer life struggled the most.  But during a prayer time I felt God speak to my soul and tell me to praise Him more, and lift up my physical needs to Him as well as my spiritual needs.  It was life transforming.  Today I am physically stronger than I have been in ten years, and I praise God everyday for His healing power in my life.

     Second, get disciplined.  What are the actions that started the bad habits?  Change them to good habits, especially the ones you used to do.  Get up at a certain time.  Start the day with prayer.  Find your exercise routine.  Eat as you used to and refuse to cheat.  Lock up the alcohol for six months.  When at work: work.  When work is over: play.  Spend quantity as well as quality time with your family.  Talk to your spouse how you can work on your marriage.  How much time do you waste on screens?  Cut it in half or more.  Look at the numbers of how much screen time you have used each week as recorded on your phone and reduce them.  Go to church at the same time you used to, either in-person or by the internet.  Don’t miss church for any reason!  Build healthy routines back into your life and stay disciplined.

     Who do you trust to hold you accountable?  Your spouse?  A Christian friend?  Your neighbor?  A co-worker?  Find more than one person to check up on you.  Give them permission to ask you how you are doing.  Do the same with your spouse and your kids.  Get the whole family on board to be stronger physically, mentally, emotionally, and especially spiritually.

     Get out pen and paper and write down answers to the following.  What bad habits have come into your life during quarantine?  What good habits did they replace?  What would it take to get the good habits back?  How is your spiritual life?  What does the discipline of a normal day need to look like?  Do you attend church regularly?  Who can you trust to hold you accountable?  Now is the time to break those new bad habits.  Let God help you!

To find out more about Al Earley or read previous columns, see www.lagrangepres.org.