Do you have a bad habit you’d like to release — for good?
We all have a bad habit or two. But when reaching for optimal health and vitality, it’s good to learn how to curb our bad habits.
There’s a new way I learned about recently. It may sound strange, but just being curious and looking at your behavior with mindfulness and detachment can, if done correctly, help us end our bad habits.
Maybe you reach for comfort foods when you’re stressed out. Or you yell at your spouse or kids. Or perhaps you can’t “kick the habit” and quit smoking. (Remember those old commercials?)
Even though you know intellectually that these behaviors won’t improve the situation, and in fact will almost certainly make it worse, you do them anyway. Why?
Well, dear one, the answer is built right into our brains.
The Brain Paradox
The prefrontal cortex, which evolutionarily is the newest part of our brains, is the part that tries to control bad habits.
It’s where willpower comes from.
But we all know willpower doesn’t last. The reason why is because the habits become ingrained in the older parts of our brains, what scientists call the reptilian brain.
That’s why you feel addictive urges in your body, not your mind. Your reptilian brain focuses only on short-term gratification.
Well, what if I told you that something so simple as being curious could help you step out of your bad habit and release it for good?
Try it and see!
Say, for example, that you are trying to quit the habit of eating sugar and flour. You want to eat clean to get healthier.
Then one day something triggers you. Say you had a bad day at the office.
In the past your habit has been to get some ice cream on the way home.
This habit has been laid down in your mind because one time a long time ago you felt bad, then ate ice cream, then felt better. Trigger, behavior, reward.
Your reptilian brain tries to recreate that scenario to make you feel better, while your prefrontal cortex says, “No! It is bad for my long-term health!”
But in the past your reptilian brain has often won that battle, as your waistline can attest. This time, though, will it be different?
See if this works for you. You might just be pleasantly surprised!
This pattern interrupt involves being mindful — stepping outside yourself and observing your behavior. Being curious.
Take a few deep breaths and calm your mind. Sit up straight, and close your eyes.
Become the Observer.
Imagine stepping a few feet away and looking back at your body. You are going to observe how your organism reacts, and why it decided you should have ice cream — the chain of events culminating in that desire for a sweet treat.
You notice that your body’s muscles are tense. Your fight or flight response has kicked in. Adrenalin is pumping, and your blood pressure has risen from the stress of your bad day at work.
You notice your prefrontal cortex having an argument with your reptilian brain.
Your prefrontal cortex is trying to point out the health consequences of eating ice cream, but your reptilian brain is reminding you of the times in the past when you felt briefly better from eating ice cream. It can’t comprehend the long-term consequences — only the short-term relief.
As the Observer, you witness this battle. Just becoming aware of it might be enough to help your prefrontal cortex win.
Old pattern: Trigger, behavior, reward, repeat.
New pattern: Notice the urge, get curious, feel the joy of letting go, and repeat.
And there, dear one, you have it!
My Micronized Purple Rice works beautifully in improving our health and vitality as we anti-age together, but it works best when you take care of your body in other ways. That means developing healthy habits to last a lifetime. And mindfulness is one of them!