Why is it that old habits are just so darn persistent even after we gain the understanding of their damaging effects and are determined to change them? How do we explain such behaviour that goes against our own self-interest? They say the answer may lie in our unconscious, sometimes referred to as the “shadows of the mind,” but not some black hole of unobjectionable urges waiting to trip you up.
It can, however, be a source of hidden and often disturbing beliefs, fears, and attitudes that affect people's everyday thinking and behaviour. For example, seeing and smelling fresh-baked brownies makes one reach out before realizing one is trying to lose weight. We then ask: “what was I thinking?!”
Sadly, the answer is: it took no thinking at all. Yet we might also be unaware that our surroundings may also be influencing our behaviour because stimuli can activate cravings. This explains why it is easier to change our environment than to change our habits.
We all have habits – deeply ingrained behaviours that are hard to change. There’s an old adage that says it takes 21 days to break one (good or bad), but is it really true?
Have you ever tried to break free from eating sweets, or drinking those high sugared drinks or the fast-food junky break away from burgers, fries and pizza? It's an uphill battle, breaking free from food addiction.
The Results Are In
Psychology researchers from University College London decided to test this theory. In 2009, the team examined 96 people and their habits for twelve weeks, with each participant choosing a new behaviour to put into practice.
Every day over the course of the study, the participants reported whether or not they performed their new behaviour and how automatic it felt. The study concluded that it took about 66 days for a new behaviour to become automatic – far from the 21-day mark we’ve been led to believe.
You're not alone. And, you don't have to be particularly addicted to sugar or salt; junk foods or fast foods to be an addict. Every last one of us has some kind of obsession with food and eating, therefore we are held hostage to addiction. What's your drug of choice? Do you know?
What's your intoxication? What is that one food or drink that fuels your addiction? And, all it takes is just one bite. I'm not talking about the type of intoxication to the point where your physical and mental control is markedly diminished. I'm talking more of what induces that state of euphoria, that high.
Habits become hard to break because they are deeply wired into our brains by constant repetition. And when you add pleasure the pleasure centers of the midbrain get fired up as well.
Habits are also patterns of behaviour and it is the breaking of those patterns that is the key to breaking the habits themselves. Because we’re wanting to break patterns, you now want to do something about the triggers themselves.
Regardless of whatever works for you, it doesn’t mean “curing” addiction only takes 66 days – recovery is a lifelong journey. But just because our brains have been altered by our compulsive behaviours doesn’t mean we’re destined to always fall into the same destructive habits.
By being mindful of our thinking and/or practicing constraint and avoidance, we can learn how to break out of our unhealthy routines and into the life we’ve always wanted.
Never give up on pursuing your goals. No matter what potential failure you face, try another strategy or try going up and over, or around and sometimes getting through, but never give up. Gary Capla
© Copywrite MJ 2019