Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Taking Probiotics Daily

This post originally appeared on Have Your Health, a blog of mine active from 2013-14, which no longer exists.

I've had an on-again-off-again relationship with Dr. Mercola's Probiotic Packs for many years. John introduced them to me when I was first learning about IBS, since I couldn't swallow the big probiotic capsules.

When I lived in Spain after college I stopped ordering and taking the probiotics, but then I took them every now and then when I was back in the states last year. See what I mean? On again, off again! I brought a few boxes of probiotic packs with me to Korea when I moved here this past fall, and last October I started to keep track of how many I had each month.

Even though I'd decided my goal was to have a probiotic pack every day, my monthly totals for October and November were 10 and 15, respectively. Probiotics on only a third and then half of the days each month.

But ever since January 2014, I've taken a probiotic pack every day. It's been over three months of daily probiotics! How did the change happen?

1. Decide

Although I'd written that I wanted to take a probiotic every day last fall, it wasn't until January that I became serious about it. Something clicked in my mind and I made it a priority instead of something that would be nice if it happened.

I wanted to improve my digestive health, and probiotics would surely boost it. Probiotics were now center stage in my mind, so my conscious helped me make sure I took them every day.

2. Make a routine

I can't drink my tap water here, so I had been buying 2-gallon water bottles from my grocery store every now and then.  (Now I boil the tap water and let it cool -- duh!)  It was a bit of a hassle these last seven months because I could only get one bottle at a time due to weight and the fact that I was carrying it on my walk home with whatever else I had purchased at the grocery store. Then I'd pour some of that water into a plastic cup at home, dump in a probiotic pack, and use a chopstick to mix it together. The point of these details is that in the back of my mind, it was a bit of a hassle to drink water at home, because that meant more frequent trips to buy the 2 liter bottles at the grocery store. And I do think this affected how often I was taking my probiotics last fall.

Now, I have a water bottle solely used for taking my probiotic pack and glutamine each day.  I take this empty water bottle to school every morning and fill it up with water from the school's drinking fountain during the day. Right when I get home from school I take the bottle out of my bag and dump in a tablespoon of glutamine and a Dr. Mercola Probiotic Pack, close the cap, and shake the bottle. I carry it around with me for the rest of the night, drinking from the bottle until it's gone.

When empty, I put the empty bottle back in my bag so it's ready to come to school with me the following day. This routine has really helped me form the probiotic habit. It developed over time without me realizing it, but I can now recognize that these daily actions are exactly what helped the habit to stick.

I doubt anyone's routine will look like mine, but the take away is to pair your new habit with something you already do every day.

3. Have a visual reminder

I keep the probiotic packs in a bowl out on my kitchen counter. I keep the wrappers on the kitchen counter and clear them off at the end of each month. I always see the probiotics, so that really helped me form the habit at the beginning of the year, too. Now it's just a part of my daily routine, like brushing my teeth and getting dressed.

This idea can be applied to many other habits. If you want to write in your journal every day, leave the journal on your bed. If you want to do yoga every day, leave your mat out on the floor. Make it easy and accessible.

And that's my analysis of how I developed the habit of taking probiotic packs every day. If there's a habit you'd like to form, I highly recommend reading James Clear's Transform Your Habits (pdf) as a starting point. (The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg is also recommended, though Transform Your Habits is a fraction of the length with just as important information, if you're not a big reader.)
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