Busy Person’s Retreat Day Three: Wednesday, February 8

Don’t you remember … what I told you before, that someone who has learned a motet of music and then wishes to learn a second and a third finds it easier to learn the second than he did the first, and much easier to learn the third from the first or even the second? So, today, we have a little difficulty performing a certain act of virtue or religion; the second time we’ll have less, and the third even less than the second, and in this way, we become more and more perfect.[i]

Do your daily habits nurture wellness?

Today we are going to do a check-in on our daily habits, and hopefully empower ourselves to intentionally begin new ones.

We all have them—good, bad, neutral, and occasionally weird routines, repetitive actions, or reactive patterns that have left channels in our neural pathways, like grooves in a vinyl record. They are what help us navigate the busy-ness, sometimes cope with harm, and create productive, structuring order out of the chaos of life. To be human is to have habits! However, while not all habits are helpful, it is possible to change them with a little bit of intentional reflection, and a fair bit of hard work!

I’m sure that we can all easily identify one or two habits that we wish we didn’t have. For some of us, it’s our dependence (some might say addiction!) to our smartphones or electronic devices. Despite the occasional shaming alert from the devices themselves (“you’ve spent an average of 3 hours a day, up 10% from last week on your phone”), the lure of checking email, checking social media, playing games, diving into the rabbit hole of Wikipedia … it’s just too much to resist. For others, it might be the three cups of triple espresso shots in the morning, the four-season binge watch on the weekend, or the “just two glasses” of wine with dinner. And for a rare few of us, there are some habits that might seemingly be benign, but can in the end not lead to holistic wellness—like being addicted to working out, extreme dieting, and overcommitting socially.

There’s absolutely no shame in any of these! Shame sometimes has a way of negatively reinforcing bad habits, as we find comfort in them. However, a little bit of reflection into why we do these things and whether these habits deliver their intended purpose in our lives can help us reevaluate them. Take smartphones as an example. Why do some of us seem to have become symbiotically tethered to them, unable to function without their presence? Is it accessibility to email? To work? If it’s after normal work hours, do we really need to be connected? Or perhaps it is social media and news—we just need to know what is happening in the world right now. Admittedly, it’s a marvel that we have—in our hands—a magical device that has opened the past and the present to us. However, we can quickly get lost from the world right in front of us. Or, to quote Yoda from Empire Strikes Back, we will spend our lives looking away, “Never [our] mind on where [we are], hmm? What [we are] doing!”

Reflection Exercise:

Pick one habit you have. Ask yourself:

  1. What propels you to perform this habit on a daily basis?
  2. Why did you start doing it in the first place? What do you hope to get out of it? Is it life-giving? Do you feel more whole, or healthier after?
  3. Is there a better, healthier, more balanced action to replace it with? Try replacing the habit for a week. It will be difficult, but it’s only a week! You can do this!

Reflection by: Alexander Perry, former

[i] Conference 126, “Repetition of Prayer,” July 28, 1655, CCD, 11:197. Available online: https://‌via.‌library.‌depaul.‌edu/‌vincentian_ebooks/37/.