When a Discipline Becomes a Habit

I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified                                                                                                            I Corinthians 9:27

I hear those statistics about how long it takes for some practices to become habits. You know, “continue to do this thing for three weeks and it becomes a habit”. I have no idea about that because we are all different. I do know that habits are not automatic. We have decisions everyday about how we are going to behave that day.

I do know that the discipline of exercise has now become a habit for me. That is, the thing I used to force myself to do became the thing that I miss if I do not do it. It started several years ago when I really realized that I was not in top physical condition. Yes, my health was good, thank God, but I was not in shape. I was overweight, and my stamina was not what it should have been.

So, I decided to practice the discipline of walking at least 30 minutes per day. That discipline grew as I heard that really, 10,000 steps per day was a goal that we ought to have. I do not know the science of that, if any, but the idea seems right. We Americans simply do not move enough. We are sedentary, and that, by any measure, is not healthy.

I bought a Fitbit, (then an Apple Watch), and I became addicted to those 10,000 steps/day. That was about 5 years ago. Now, if I don’t get at least 13,000 steps per day, I am not happy with myself. The point here is that the discipline that I started several years ago grew into a habit. Good disciplines make good habits.

All of the literature on depression indicates that physical exercise is equally effective as medication in mitigating mild to moderate depression. I always advise my clients to add exercise into their lives because it is good in every way for us, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Just to be clear, I am not advocating that people simply stop taking antidepressant medication- it is effective, and sometimes necessary in treatment of depression and anxiety. However, if my clients are physically able to exercise, I always make that part of the homework.

Keeping the promises that we make to ourselves is the basis of healthy self-esteem. I know that regular exercise for me is important, and I plan to continue. That discipline has become a healthy habit.

Prayer: Thank you father for the gift of our bodies- precious gifts that we must nurture and protect, Amen.

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