Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Replace Rather than Resist!: Easy Tip for Simpler Change

We all have behaviours that we'd like to change. And we're especially aware of them during this time, when the year is still new. But no matter how sure we are about knowing what behaviours need to be changed, when our habits are already deeply rooted around our vices, it can get hard to resist them. Because our habits are usually done mindlessly, it can be hard to distinguish which ones lead to things we want to avoid, until it's too late.

Oh right, I was supposed to stop midnight snacking. Shit. Always forget during my nightly fridge trip.
We must remember that whenever we cut something out, we leave a void. Voids are vacuums that will fill themselves up. Your five hours of playing Candy Crush will leave you with five free hours. And if you don't put something else in there, it will be hard to keep your cursor away from automatically going for that bright candy icon.

Just... One more level. Swear I'm done.
Let's apply this to something simple. Say you're trying to eat healthier. Your first thought might be to cut out "the bad stuff", like highly processed meat, excess fats and sugars, etc. Or you tell yourself you'll just eat less of the same, plain and simple. This won't work as well as if you instead:

  • shopped for healthier food so it's what's in your house in the first place
  • cooked said food more often than ordering takeout
  • filled up your plate with more veggies first, and then putting the rest

Focusing on "including more good stuff" in your grocery list instead of "avoiding the bad stuff" is easier on your willpower reserves because it cuts the time spent trying to resist something you like. When you mentally resist something you desire, you spend time thinking about the thing you like a lot anyway. And you'll just end up giving yourself more chances to fail. It would be better if you just didn't think about it, not by telling yourself not to, but by thinking of other things right away.

This can also be applied to a bad habit I personally have: subjecting myself mental show-reels of the most embarrassing moments of my life. Read this statement, will you:

Don't think of a boy in a blue shirt holding a red balloon.

Chances are, you thought about a boy in a blue shirt holding a red balloon. You couldn't resist, there was no other choice. Stop trapping yourself in the same way by just giving yourself something else to think about and completely immerse yourself in it, instead of telling yourself I shouldn't be thinking about this. Why am I thinking about this? Stop thinking about this please!!! I promise that no matter how strong the urge is to go back and comb through every detail of the memory, any findings you may acquire during the torture would not be as valuable as the peace you'll find in knowing how to move on.

So yep. This one has been hard for me to do, but I'm getting better at it, I'm excercising my letting-go muscles. I've always been a very attached person with abandonment issues, so I understand how long it might take. But even now, as I still struggle with automatically fighting myself internally sometimes, I can already feel the benefits of practicing just moving on to the better things right away. It sure lightens the load, and when the rest of life is already such a struggle, who wouldn't want to stay at peace with their own selves?

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