Why is it so hard to stick to a routine? Perhaps it’s in the definition. After all, a routine is a “customary course of action; more or less mechanical performance of certain acts or duties. The last time we checked, you aren’t a robot so doing something in a mechanical way feels unnatural. We’re used to finding the path of least resistance and when something feels difficult, it is so hard to forge ahead.
There is a lengthy list of reasons that it is so hard to get into a routine of healthy behaviors. The first is that we underestimate how long it takes to form a habit. You think, “I’ll start Monday” and then you think, “Wow, it’s already been a week. I’ve got this.” As you near 30 days, you are already patting yourself on the back for a job well done.
Not so fast there. Despite all the 30 day and six week challenges out there, it can and probably will take longer for your new habit to stick. Instead of counting days or weeks, try thinking about how many first you have with your new routine. This is the first time I didn’t get winded walking up the stairs. This is the first time I’ve been able to button these pants. Your new “firsts” are something to be celebrated!
The second reason that routines are so hard to stick to has to do with the number of changes you are trying to make at once. If you are mostly sedentary and you like to eat a hardy breakfast, smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol and stay up late, you can’t expect to drop everything all at once and replace it with healthy habits. Too many changes are hard to process and even harder to execute. Focus on very small changes when you are beginning a routine.
The third reason routines have a hard time sticking is that we hold on to a view of either we stick to the routine or we fail. This kind of all or nothing, aka black and white thinking, is common but destructive. It’s the same voice in your head that says, “Since I’ve already eaten something bad, I might as well just quit at this point”. The key is to not give these hiccups a second thought and stick to the plan you’ve laid out for yourself. Leave your judgment at the door because it has no place in your head.
The fourth reason we don’t stick to routines is that we create routines that we aren’t looking forward to. How can we be expected to stick to something we never wanted to do in the first place? Did we compare ourselves to others and think, “If John can work out at the gym 5 days a week, well then so can I?” You’re not John. Maybe John has picked an activity at the gym he really enjoys and you’re on the recumbent bike bored out of your mind. What new routine would create anticipation and excitement? Start there!
Finally, when creating a new routine, consider whether you are internally motivated or externally motivated to stick to it. We’re all externally motivated to do or not do things. You avoid getting into trouble because you wouldn’t want to shame your family. You got a steady, reliable job because you wanted to provide for your family. There is absolutely nothing wrong with external motivation. But it will only get you so far. If you are trying to manage a Parkinsons’ diagnosis and you’ve never been active, external motivation of well meaning friends and family saying, “You’ve got to be active” is NOT enough. You have to find the internal motivation to put in the effort. Ultimately, you’re only accountable to you, and that means you control the variables that decide whether you succeed or fail.
We’ve established that routines are hard to create and stick to but we know we need to create a new normal now that Parkinson’s is a part of our life. We feel isolated at home, compounded by digital overload and disconnected from people who don’t understand Parkinson’s.
Man (and woman) is not an island. We need human connection and meeting other people with Parkinson’s is a great first step. Join us for Coffee and Connect every 2nd and 4th Wednesday at 10 am at Center Stage Starz to listen, share your experience (if you’re ready) and get support. Remember to sign up at the classes link so we can have a hot cup of joe waiting for you.
If you’re not ready or unable to come in person, join us online on the first Wednesday of every month.
Parkinson’s Pointe meets you where you are. While we offer yoga, Tai Chi, dance, spin, fit-boxing, Pilates and barre, we can also meet your psychological and social needs in a more relaxed setting. Make a new friend and join them in a class when you’re ready or become someone else’s motivation to show up for their first class. Call us with any questions at 720 468-4581.