Friday, February 04, 2011

Up next on the habit-change list

I've been reading a lot from Leo Babauta about changing habits.  Have you read anything from him?  One of his blogs,, is all about it!  He's changed a laundry list of habits over the past few years; he stopped smoking,  lost weight, and changed his eating patterns and became vegan.  I'm impressed at how he's been able to create the life that works best for him.

Last month, I was trying to stick to a $100 personal item spending budget AND tried the 21-day Yoga challenge.  I didn't practice asana yoga for 21 consecutive days, but I was pretty darn close.  And, as stated in my last post, I kinda-sorta made the $100 budget goal.  Neither were total wrecks, but neither are they "habits" for me.

According to Leo, there are 3 steps to change a habit:
1)  Write down your plan.
2)  Identify your triggers and replacement habits.
3)  Focus on doing the replacement habits every single time the triggers happen, for about 30 days.

Certainly seems easy enough.  After going through my laundry list of habits I'd like to change, I decided that there was one that I was ready to tackle head on.  I debated for the last week, if I'd have the courage to actually type it and reveal it here.  You see, it's very personal and the more I read about it, the more embarrassed I become.  This bad habit I have has a clinical name, a very scientific sounding name, Dermatillomania.  Compulsive Skin Picking.  CSP.  It's embarrassing.  I want to quit.  I hate that I have been doing this to myself for the last 25 years. 

It was only in my latest research that I realized just how many other people in the world have this same problem.  That I'm not alone.  The first time I voiced my problem in public was about 4 or 5 months ago when I was on a meditation retreat.  We got together with a partner and our instruction was to have one person listen while the other person stated all of the things that they were afraid of.  When the talker paused and didn't think they had anymore to say, the listener was to say, "thank you.  What else are you afraid of?"  We did this for about 4-5 minutes each.  In the first few minutes, I said I was afraid of dogs, big open spaces of water, etc.  It was in the very last stretch that the "real" fears came up.  I said without really thinking about it that I was afraid I'd never be able to stop picking at my face.  It was a deeply personal fear and one that I had never spoken to anyone about.  Not like this.

Since then, I've spoken about it with others.  I mentioned it in another small group discussion a few weeks ago at a retreat and one of the other women said that she had the same problem in the past, but that she did overcome the habit.  She had gorgeous skin!  My wheels started to turn again.  I, too, could defeat this.  I needed to come up with a plan and gather support to help me conquer this addiction, bad habit, horrible thing that I do to myself.  So here it is.

1)  Write down my plan.  I will STOP my compulsive picking.  At my face, my arms, chest, and back.  I will not get my face or body close to a mirror.
2)  Identify my triggers and replacement habits.  Triggers:  boredom, stress, anxiety.  When I find myself with my hands on my body, scratching or picking, I will remove them.  I will rub hand lotion on my hands.  I will pick up my knitting.  I will read a book.  I will engage in conversation with my children.  I will also place a note on my mirrors of how many days that I have successfully NOT picked as encouragement.
3)  Focus on doing the replacement habits every single time the triggers happen, for about 30 days.  OK.  Today is day 3.  I have successfully completed 2 days.

Thank you for supporting me.  This is a very difficult thing to do and more difficult to share and talk about.


Natalie said...

I have a the same problem and I applaud you for tackling this.

In fact, my three sisters, my mother and my father do it. It's a joke among our husbands who think we're super gross. I used to have a really bad problem with it. I have scars on my arms from picking at black heads - but, they were clear ones and no one would have noticed had I not picked.

For the most part, I've gotten it under much better control (Though, I still do it often enough that my girls catch me and ask me what I'm doing)- and I think it's b/c my husband picked on me so much about (not in a mean way-but a way that brought it to my attention) that I'm not as obsessive about it as I used to be. Though, I do, involuntarily scratch at my face, peeling any dry skin. I don't even realize I'm doing it. Someone would have to say something to me for me to be able to break that habit. Anyway, since it used to be a really really bad habit, with daily welts on my arms, back and face, I'm okay with where I'm at now. But, I will never ever be able to leave a big whitehead on my face to pop on it's own. Ever.

sfauthor said...

Nice posting. Do you know about these yoga books?