Unboxing Old Habits After Moving

Declan Wilson
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I am currently typing these words in my new home office. “Office” is a bit of a stretch. There’s a desk positioned, as always, in front of a window and there are boxes, too many boxes, littering the floor.

My wife and I just bought a house. The process required us to move out of our apartment and move in with her parents for a month. The combination of moving, living in a basement, and shelling out thousands of dollars for the biggest purchase of our lives has understandably shaken things up a bit.

Before moving, I exercised regularly, tracked my nutrition, wrote every day, practiced Italian, and overall had a nice flow to my day. All that is gone.

So how do I plan to fall back into my old (healthy) habits after a big move?

Well, it’s not as hard as it seems.

Creating space

You’d be surprised to learn that habits are tied to places and things. If you struggle with snacking, it might be because you have a well-stocked cookie jar on your kitchen counter. When you see the jar, you open it, pop your grummy hand inside, and snack away without realizing that the decision to grab a cookie was automatically triggered by the sight of the cookie jar.

Step one of me getting back into my habits requires that I create spaces in my home to trigger certain actions. Instead of a cookie jar, I need to find my digital scale. Seeing that on the kitchen counter will remind me to measure how much chicken breast I should eat for protein.

Setting up my work out bench and weights will trigger the desire for more dopamine after a good lifting session. Leaving notebooks and pens around our new house will help me to catch ideas for more articles and kick start the writing process.

Find the things that trigger your healthy habits and make them visible.

Take it one step at a time

Before moving I worked like clockwork. I woke up at 6 AM, got some coffee, wrote out 1,500 words before my kids woke up, ate healthily, exercised, and went to bed by 10:30 PM.

I’m nowhere near my clockwork form (sundial form, maybe).

However, I know if I try too much at once I’ll fail and bad habits will creep in like the gross spides I keep finding in our new basement. Instead, if I take it one habit at a time, I’ll have a better chance of success.

The goal isn’t to establish all my old healthy habits at once, the goal is to establish just one core habit that’ll drive all the rest.

My first core habit will be nutrition. Before moving, I had a certain calorie and nutrition goal to hit every day. That doesn’t matter right now. All that matters is that today I will simply record what I eat. I won’t think about goals. I won’t even measure my food. I’ll eat and log it into my phone.

Tomorrow I’ll do the same and the next day and the day after that. But soon my decisions will change. I’ll reach for the bag of almonds instead of the chips. I’ll measure out portions instead of filling my entire plate. I’ll let my old habits organically fall into place.

I’ll do the same for exercising and writing. I’ll start small with a couple of pushups or maybe write an article about how I’ll regain my habits. Nothing big.

All it takes one small, deliberate first step.

Adapt and move on

Things aren’t always going to be the same.

Moving to a new house, starting a new relationship, becoming a parent, these big life events change you and your habits.

To me, it’s more important to adapt and evolve to my situation than force my way onto it. I’ll use a practical example to explain. Moving from our old apartment into a new home meant our kids finally have a finished basement to play in. However, it also means I lose a nice big open space to work out.

In our old apartment, I had a workout space. Now I’m not sure exactly where I’ll work out. I have to adapt. I might have to learn to share a space or maybe sign up for a gym.

Whatever the solution is, my goal isn’t to force my old habits onto my new situation but find ways to work my habits into it instead. Sometimes you just have to accept that things won’t be the same.

Enjoy it

Habits and routines give my life some structure. It’s probably why I’m not fun to take on vacation. I like knowing that my actions are helping me to become a better human, physically and mentally.

When my wife and I talked about whether we wanted to buy a house, we knew it would require a huge sacrifice on both our parts. We knew there would be stress and anxiety and that our lives would be temporarily turned upside-down.

But we also knew that there was a goal in sight, giving our boys their first real home. That goal brought us tremendous amounts of joy. Yes, my old habits and routines are a mess, but I haven’t been too hard on myself to re-establish them. Things will return to order.

The joy I’m feeling is worth it.

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Stay-at-home dad. 9-to-5 escapee. Aldi aficionado.

Baltimore, MD
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