Today in our OT alphabet, H is for Habit!! If we all stopped to think about it for moment, we can probably identify several of our habits. Interestingly, we may tend to think of habits in reference to bad ones, or behaviors that are less desirable or supportive. But habits serve an important function in our occupational lives!
OTs consider habits as specific, automatic behaviors that may support – or hinder – occupational performance. The key to habits is that they are automatic so that we don’t even really think about these behaviors when we do them. Examples may include the way we brush out teeth, the order in which we get dressed, how we groom our hair, or the way we place our keys in the same place upon arriving home (well – I have hear some people do that!).
What purpose do habits serve? In OT terms, effective habits enable us increase the efficiency of our occupational performance because the behaviors are automatic. For instance, how long would our morning self-care routine be if we actually had to stop and think about performing each step of brushing our teeth, getting dressed, or grooming our hair? It would take us HOURS to get ready – everyday!! But because our habits enable us to do large portions of our daily tasks efficiently, our occupational performance is improved.
But what happens when an injury or illness occurs and we are no longer able to utilize our existing habits? As OTs we work with clients to find new ways to do things, or adapt an activity, but do we use the term “habits” when working together?
Wallenbert, I., & Jonsson, H. (2005). Waiting to get better: A dilemma regarding habits in daily occupations after stroke.American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 59, 218–224.