The Benefits of Physical Doing

Jet Propulsion Labs Open House                                                                                   Pasadena, CA 

Jet Propulsion Labs Open House                                                                                   Pasadena, CA 


The Benefits of Physical Doing


In case some of you don’t know, I spend most of my time working in a television production office. Days off from the cube often elicit lazy ideas of staying home, perhaps watching TV, baking, cleaning, or the opposite, going out and partying. Either way, breaking from a regular routine seems to filter into my newfound stretch of freedom. 

Perhaps rest is what’s really needed. Generally, if you’re paying attention to your body and your energy, you’ll know if should simply be sleeping. Rejuvenation! But even rejuvenation without exercise over a period of a few days hacks at cardiovascular and strength gains acquired by regular exercise routines. We “feel” the difference once we’re back at it. It’s not as if we’ve lost everything; it’s more of an awareness that we have a little less capacity. The good news is that it all comes back as soon as we do. 

Hint-hint ... varying your workout is a fantastic tool for returning to an exercise routine. If you don’t make it to class or the gym to do your regular thing, perhaps clean with a little extra verve, wash your own car, or take a brisk walk or a hike. Or dance, dance, dance at that party! Lifestyle Exercise. I’m all for it!

But what if something like illness or injury sidelines everything, including going to work and our personal routines? What happens to the habits and repetitive behaviors we've? Often life-changing events will break them completely. Is that a positive change or a negative one? Emotional shock is a powerful agent of change and one that could represent a measure of safety for the mind. The body follows the mind, so how might we recover after long periods of inactivity or perhaps after a complete change in lifestyle? Perhaps we prepare by breaking our routines and habits a little bit at a time.


I crave the structure of routine at my job, just so I can then find ways to add or change the things around it! I know that seems a little crazy, but the psychology of it is that I like the steadiness of the status quo, because I don’t have to worry or think too much about it. But I love managing my time around my well-honed ability to get my work done to actually do more in my life! Adding variety that part is exciting and I believe helps to stave off boredom and even depression. Ironically, negative elements can settle in when we're doing the very thing we crave – routine. The simplest remedy for me is to do something physical. Get outside. Perhaps take a class or go to the gym? Just a little social interaction and positive encouragement from others, or from you toward others who are also doing physical things offers a magical recalibration of mindset that might be anxious about routine – being fed up with it - or the fact that we are even rejecting the routine and judging ourselves for doing so. 

What about personal habits? Honestly, mine are few; at least I believe they are. And I enjoy them. In the morning, I turn the TV while I get ready for work. That’s a strong habit. Deciding to either watch (which is really more listening as I move around) to the BBC, a local news channel, a network morning talk show, or a movie, breaks it up a bit, and I rarely stay with the same show more than two days consecutively. I do want to make drinking a glass of water in the morning a habit, so deciding to add lemons or a tablespoon of the honey-lemon-ginger syrup I make breaks that up bit and helps me toward establishing the habit. Finally, I put on SPF makeup before I leave, and everything else after that is never really a habit.  

Full Definition of HABIT from Merriam-Webster:

1 archaic: clothing

2a:  a costume characteristic of a calling, rank, or function <a nun's habit>

2b:  a costume worn for horseback riding

3:  manner of conducting oneself: 

4:  bodily appearance or makeup <a man of fleshy habit>

5:  the prevailing disposition or character of a person's thoughts and feelings: mental makeup

6:  a settled tendency or usual manner of behavior <her habit of taking a morning walk>

7a:  a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition or physiologic exposure that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance

7b:  an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary <got up early from force of habit>

7c:  addiction <a drug habit>

8:  characteristic mode of growth or occurrence <a grass similar to Indian corn in habit>

9: of a crystal: characteristic assemblage of forms at crystallization leading to a usual appearance: shape

 The danger of some habits is that they may become ritualistic, trapping and holding us to perform them no matter what. Associating ritualistic behavior as something that defines us or as a haven for safety or control might actually lock us in our own narrow prison. And narrow prisons come with feelings of panic and anxiety – both from feeling unable to break from them and also fearing to break from them. It’s so slippery, isn’t it?

Once again, a small act of physical doing that represents a change of habit or routine can lead to positive ongoing wonderful discovery that might also prepare us for the affects of a larger lifestyle change we all encounter at some point in our lives.


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