First we see it, then we try it and if it makes us feel good we’ll remember it.
Here’s a spimple example :
- Saw this beer commercial, it looked good.
- Bought the beer, it was good!
Habitual behavior is located in the prefrontal cortex of our brain. This part of the brain is sensitive to different types of stress. It basically shuts down when it gets overloaded. Cravings however are located in another part of the brain which is not effected by stress. This combination makes it hard for us to change unwanted habits.
That’s why we’re not able to stop smoking, even though we know it will kill us. It means that the “when to lit up a cigarette” list has gotten too darn long.
What can we do to change a behavior?
- Go cold turkey :
The problem with this approach is that you’ll forever have the memory of how good those last cigarettes felt. That’s why a lot of people gain weight when they try to stop smoking. It’s really easy to switch to the “when to have a cookie” list instead. Then you we use the gaining weight problem to start smoking again.
If you decide to go for the cold turkey strategy. Make sure that you have a couple of other “Healthy options” lists, ready for when the cravings kicks in. It can be as simple as “Green tea” or maybe a “Out door walk”. It should be something that you enjoy doing, that’s what’s most important. Otherwise it wont work…
- Behavior mindfulness :
The trick is to be curious about your habits. Curiosity is actually a stimulant in it self and therefore it can be used as an eraser for any list that you are currently a slave to.
Next time you experience an unwanted craving take the opportunity to really analyze the experience before acting on it. Let’s pretend that you stop yourself from acting on your impulse, for once. Congratulations! Don’t stop being curious, keep on analyzing how it feels to be successful. This is how you start writing a “I feel good about quitting!” list.
So you don’t have to quit immediately. But next time you bring out your “naughty” list, make sure to be curious about what’s really going on.
It might feel a bit hippie but it’s actually scientifically proven to be a better solution than going cold turkey.
I take a long outdoor walks when I feel tempted to go back into old routines. It’s one of the best tools in my kit.
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