Breaking Habits

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My poor car, halfway into someone’s garden.

Getting into good habits has been vital to me, both in dealing with my mental health and in building my writing career. A lot of the time, changes to habits take hard work and planning. But just occasionally, they’re thrust upon you.

Back in March, I had a car crash. It was a lot less scary than the last one I was in, and I wasn’t hurt. But my car, not being worth much to begin with, was an insurance write-off.

That left me with a tough choice. It was just about possible for me to buy a replacement, but it would make my finances uncomfortably tight. Or I could stop driving for a bit. The latter seemed like the smart option.

Over the past few years, I’d got into the habit of using my car a lot. I’d done exactly the sorts of things I’d tried to avoid by not learning to drive in my twenties. I used the car for journeys I could walk. I used it over the train for long-distance travel. My own personal polluting machine became my default mode of getting about.

Going without involved some serious adjustments. I now order in shopping rather than going to the supermarket. I spend 45 minutes walking to a friend’s house rather than ten minutes driving. Some places take me two or three times as long to get to, thanks to the limits of public transport.

And the end result is that I feel much better. There’s more exercise built into my day. I’m doing lots of reading and listening to audiobooks as I walk or sit on public transport. Not only am I living a life more in line with my personal values, but my mood has improved. And the money saved on petrol, insurance, taxes, and so on more than pays for the bus and train tickets.

Changing habits takes hard work. But sometimes a moment of disruption can make it easier to make that change. When you get the chance, those moments are worth seizing.