If you don’t engage in unhealthy habits, you may think this article doesn’t apply to you. But read on, because you may find it helps you in some way.
When we think of addictions, what usually comes to mind is drugs or alcohol. But we can become addicted to any thought, feeling or behavior.
Addictions to thoughts show up as rumination, when we keep replaying the same thoughts over and over in our minds, whether its criticizing ourselves, or blaming others.
Addictions to behaviors can be as harmless as nail biting, or as destructive as aggression, binge eating, or our 21st century addiction to technology and social media.
We may not always know it, but every moment of our lives, we’re faced with 2 choices –do we avoid or do we approach. Even when we avoid, we’re again faced with the same choice, what do we now approach. And when our avoidance behaviors are based in fears, the approach behaviors are often impulsive.
What then happens is that the brain releases a feel-good chemical – we’ve just escaped something we feared – and this behavior gets coded in our brain as a good thing and makes us want to repeat it. Which is why even depressive thoughts can feel good in the moment and we can struggle to break out of them. Voila the beginnings of addiction.
If you feel that there’s any thought, feeling or behavior you’d like to change in your life, you need to get clear on how you really want to show up in your life. Make this ideal image as compelling for yourself as possible.
Then, when your impulsive brain seems to take over, slow down before you engage with it. Slowing down gives your conscious brain time that little bit of extra time it needs to catch up because its slow compared to the emotional brain.
Then ask yourself:
What’s the emotional brain saying to you? Is it trying to tease, shame or bully you into a certain behavior?
Are its fears or motives based on beliefs that may not be completely correct or helpful, even though they may once have been?
How will you stay your ground (breathing is a great way to do so), and take ONE courageous action towards your real goal?
It won’t be easy. You’ll be uncomfortable – maybe very uncomfortable. But let your ideal image of yourself be the force that pulls you forward.
And once you do, savor the benefits of your action. Talk about it with trusted others. Reward yourself in some way. Because all of these will code the new behavior as a good thing, and make it easier the next time around. An addiction worth having