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There was a comment on my previous week’s blog entry, “there is merit in habit.” The comment was in reference to building and maintaining healthy habits, both in terms of emotional health and in terms of physical well-being. It was a great comment, and one that stuck with me.

I think for most people, “habit” has a negative connotation. We often talk about “not slipping into bad habits,” or “breaking the habit.” When we DO talk about good habits, it’s usually a suggestion for something we SHOULD do, but don’t do often enough. “It would be a good habit if you’d try…”

Diabetes is full of good habits, and we should recognize this. Foremost among the habits of Diabetians (it sounds like a line from a nature documentary — The Habits of Diabetians) is that of monitoring. We monitor everything — food intake, insulin ratios, physical exercise levels, caloric totals, blood pressure, A1C readings, signs of hypoglycemia, and the list goes on.

All of this monitoring is a habit we can’t help but develop. And it does something very useful for not only our diabetes care, but for our overall intellectual development. We become very good at managing and tracking complex systems capable of dynamic change. Let me put that another way: We’re good at multitasking, and we can handle unexpected changes.

Good habit number two for people living with diabetes: We maintain a constant awareness of our physical state as we run a 24-hour, nonstop scan in the backs of our minds to check for low blood glucose. Think about that: No matter what else you’re doing, whatever else you’re thinking about, you’re scanning for signs of a low. I know I am. It’s not my conscious thought most of the time, but it’s always there. And over the years, I’ve come to realize something: Because I’m constantly “tuning in” to the possibility of subtle cues from my body, I have developed a strong understanding of the connection between mind and body.

This might sound a little new-agey, but the fact is we Diabetians have spent years practicing how to be complete, integrated human beings. The mind-body connection is the aim of yoga, meditation, peak performance in sports, and a number of other activities. And we’re practicing it all the time.

Good habit number three? Working with what life gives us. OK, this is a little more esoteric, and perhaps more reflective of my own personal relationship with diabetes, but living with the condition for 19 years has taught me to work with what life gives me. By that I mean I have learned, through trial and error and many course corrections, to roll with the punches and turn away from that ever-present urge to overreact, freak out, or waste energy and time fighting reality.

We tend to do that when we get bad news. And when I was first diagnosed, I did that every time I had a number I didn’t like. Well, after a while of exhausting myself with this cycle, I learned to let go. I didn’t stop trying to CORRECT those intermittent high numbers, but I stopped freaking out every time my meter said something I didn’t like. And that habit has applied across the board in the rest of my life.

All right, I’m running a little short this week on my old word count, but it’ll have to do. There are probably hundreds more habits I could name here, but instead of doing that, I’m going to wrap up with an invitation for people reading this to contribute some of the good habits you’ve developed thanks to diabetes. And share the skills, gifts, and abilities that these habits have given you.

As my blog reader commented last week, “there is merit in habit”!

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