Humans are creatures of habit. We have heard this time and time again, yet what does it mean?
Psychologically, our brains are working to determine the most efficient ways to navigate our life and make it through our day. Some of us make thousands of decisions a day, and habits allow us to become more efficient decision-makers.
Consider two different scenarios when it comes to meal planning. In the first scenario, you have no idea what to make for dinner each night and have to come up with something on the fly to satisfy your family. In the second scenario, you plan your meals a week ahead of time and do your grocery shopping to meet the needs of those meals. With the second scenario, there is a lot less stress involved in the decision process because you made the choice of having ‘Taco Tuesday’ and ‘Pasta Thursday’ ahead of time.
What about those of us with bad habits? How do we break our bad habits and form healthier ones? Why do we have bad habits anyway?
The most common bad habits are excessive alcohol consumption, overeating, increased sugar intake, and the overuse of technology. Even procrastination is a bad habit that, like all the others, has a psychological impact on our brain and body chemistry. When we decide to put something off until tomorrow, we trigger a cascade of dopamine and serotonin neurotransmitters that elicit momentary pleasure from our choice. These same “happy chemicals” are released when we consume sugar and, for many people, when we get positively reinforced on our social media accounts.
When you understand the biochemistry, the “why” becomes clear; we do these things to become happy. Unfortunately, these bad habits only elicit a momentary burst of happiness, like a firework bursting in the night sky. There is a better, healthier way to achieve happiness that lasts longer and is sustainable. However, to change our habits, we must first acknowledge them. Then we can take steps to address them in a healthy and sustainable way.
✓ Step 1: Identify the habit you wish to change and the triggers that are associated with that habit. Also, write down WHY you wish to change this habit and post it somewhere you can see it every day.
✓ Step 2: Do your research. If your habit is consuming unhealthy food, find healthier food choices or behaviors.
✓ Step 3: Make a commitment to yourself for one week. At the end of that week, re-evaluate your situation and renew your commitment. One week at a time.
✓ Step 4: Tell a friend or family member about your commitment. You’re more likely to follow through on a promise to yourself when you have shared it with others.
✓ Step 5: Control your environment. You’re the one who fills the pantry with food and or liquor. If it’s there, you will likely eat or drink it. Buy less each week or none at all.
How long does it take? That depends on multiple factors, and it could take weeks or months. The point is, you CAN do it. Focus on the fact that it is possible and focus on the “why” you’re doing it, and you will find a way.
Jason Tate is a functional medicine certified health coach with Restore Health in Indian Wells and can be reached at (760) 408.2720. For more information visit www.restorehealth.me.