Do you have a behaviour you’d like to change? Perhaps it’s kicking a sugar habit, or you’re wanting to refrain from biting your nails, or to stop engaging in gossip.
Whenever we want to change a behaviour, there are many ways to approach it. For example, sometimes it’s about simply making a decision, at other times it helps to address what’s happening with your biochemistry, or perhaps it would be helpful to explore your emotional landscape to see what’s really driving your choices. And often we need to do all of these!
Suggestions for changing a behaviour:
Make a decision
This is certainly a possibility, however, if it were that simple, you likely would have done it already. Having said that, I know many people who have simply decided to quit smoking, or start exercising regularly, or stop engaging in office gossip and just done it. We can make swift decisions when we perceive there are more downsides than benefits to us continuing with the behaviour; in these examples, smoke, be sedentary or gossip. Until this shift in perception occurs, making a decision will often feel like something we’ll get to one day.
Address your biochemistry
Sometimes aspects of our biochemistry drive us to make choices we may not otherwise make. For example, when we relentlessly produce adrenaline because we are juggling too many glass balls—and often consuming too much caffeine—all of that adrenaline screams “danger” to your body and will drive its fuel preference to be more glucose-using, rather than fat. As a result of this we can burn through our glucose and glycogen stores—leading us to crave sweet food to top up our “escape” fuel tanks. In other words, our perceptions and choices from earlier in the day, set up our chemistry to want a quick sugar fix.
If this resonates, you might like to explore your perceptions of task-related pressure, while easing up on your caffeine intake, to see if producing less adrenaline across a morning helps you to make more nutritious choices from mid-afternoon onwards.
If you notice resistance in yourself to, for example, taking a break from caffeine to see how your sweet cravings go, is it because you perceive there to be more benefits than downsides in continuing the way you are…?
Explore your emotional landscape
Humans are wired to do more to avoid pain than we are to seek pleasure—which makes sense when life involved escaping from a territorial wild animal before gathering the cashews we spotted on a tree we passed earlier. However, this is less helpful when the pain we seek to avoid is emotional. Yet we might not be conscious that avoiding pain is what we are doing when we eat, drink or interact in ways we know don’t serve us. We might truly want to change a behaviour, yet when our priority is to avoid pain before seeking pleasure, we unconsciously perceive there are more benefits than downsides to continuing with the choices that we are wanting to shift. Untangling this perception can make all the difference in giving you the freedom to change a behaviour.
Is there a change you’ve been wanting to make?
If so, take pen to paper and write down the benefits and downsides you have for continuing the way you are. Then on another list, write the benefits and downsides of living in a way that incorporates your new choice. This exercise is more than a pros and cons list as doing both help you to see what you might be perceiving unconsciously, and this can then truly free you for change.
I hope this process brings you great insight and help to foster the changes you seek.
This article was written by Dr Libby and originally appeared on www.drlibby.com.