Making adjustments to create a healthier big picture.

Scott K. JohnsonBy Scott Johnson

Habits are such strange things. They are sometimes good, sometimes bad, but almost always automatic. It is terribly hard to break a bad habit, and it takes a lot of dedication and persistence to work something "good" in as a habit. But there are also sometimes those habits that don't fall into either category - ones that are just there, like taking a certain route to work everyday or eating your food in a certain order.

I am currently experiencing a forced change of habit, and it is one of those "just there" habits.

My workplace recently installed those automatic soap dispensers and paper towel dispensers in the bathrooms. You know the kind I'm talking about? They are popping up everywhere these days. Instead of a lever to pull or push for a squirt of soap, you just place your hand under the dispenser, and a dollop of soap is dispensed on your hand.

For a paper towel, you wave your hand in front of a little "magic eye" on the machine, and as if returning a kind "hello" back to you, it spits out a pre-determined length of paper towel (which is almost never enough towel to do the job on its own).

It is all in an effort to be more environmentally friendly and cheaper to maintain. I'm all for efforts to be more green and economical, but I am having a hell of a time adjusting to these new "friendly" devices.

So far, it has been a really interesting reminder of just how ingrained habits become after a short time. I would guess that in a typical day I might visit the restroom three or four times (unless my blood sugar is high!), depending on how much Diet Coke I drink. That doesn't sound like a lot to me. But over years and years, I guess it adds up. That is pretty apparent to me now.

The other thing that changed is the actual soap, and that plays a role here too. It used to be the liquid, lotion-like soap. Now it is the foamy kind.

I used to walk up to the sink and turn the water on with one hand while simultaneously yanking on the soap lever twice, for two squirts of the liquid lotion soap. Then I would start lathering up while sliding my hands under the faucet for a little water. I'd lather up some more, then rinse off, turn to the side and pull out two or three paper towels to dry my hands.

Now things feel much different (even though they're only slightly different). With that weird foamy soap I have to get my hands wet before getting any soap. That foam stuff doesn't foam up very good, and seems to completely evaporate if you rub your hands together before getting them wet. (Where the heck does it go!?) Then I wave to the towel dispenser and wait for the two-point-five seconds it takes for it to squeak out a towel. Get my hands mostly dry with that one and repeat the strange greeting ritual to convince it I need another towel (and don't wave too soon or the "magic eye" turns red and refuses to acknowledge you).

It is clear to me that I'm using less soap and less towels, so it is doing what it is supposed to do. It has just been very hard to abandon my old routine and adopt the new procedure. I didn't even realize I had these habits until I had to change them.

It also made me think of my life with diabetes. How many little habits or routines do we have, knowingly or not? Are these habits constructive or destructive? Do they build us up or tear us down, or are they just there, like my bathroom routine? I'm using less soap and towels, which is making a difference in that big picture.

Are there diabetes habits that I can change that, given enough time, will make a difference in my big picture? After all, isn't that what it's all about?

Visit Scott's website.


dLife's Daily Living columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team to find out what will work best for you.

Last Modified Date: May 13, 2013

All content on dLife.com is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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