Interrupting Unhealthy Coping Habits

Life is all about trial and error. What may work for some, may not work for others. And what may work, may not work all the time. Take this as a little disclaimer before you continue reading.

A few years ago, when I had just joined the TEDtalk club, I happened to have stumbled upon a talk done by Judson Brewer where he discussed the concept of habit-forming, the science behind the process and we can slowly but surely rewire our brains to break bad habits and adopt good and healthy ones. He stated that most of our innate humanly processes were initially formed because of a trigger, that trigger brought on behavior and that behavior resulted in reward.

For example, feeling hunger pangs in your stomach 2 hours before your lunch hour would be the trigger, your behavior would be hurriedly rushing out of the office to get a Jam Baconator from Wendy’s with medium fries and a large coke (sponsor me Wendy’s), and the reward would definitely be a full and satisfied tummy. But he further went on to say that sometimes our brains can use this same process against us and decide that maybe this could be brought on by a different trigger. So instead of eating to feel satisfied and nourished, you could probably eat that same meal when you’re stressed… Even though you’re not hungry. And this how stress eating is evolved. This can be applied to many other things, not only ‘coping habits’ but general things that we shouldn’t be doing in certain situations. However, in order to nip that habit in the bud, mindfulness is vital. He stated that curiosity can be the driving force for dismantling unhealthy coping habits and making room for healthy ones.

The next time you’re stress eating, drinking, smoking etc., begin to really focus on the feeling you get when you are indulging in these things. Tune in deeper into your mind and body and focus on the different tastes, smells, sensations etc. that you’re experiencing.

I’d also like to add that it is also very important to do these following things:

  • Ask yourself “Do I need to do this right now?” “Are there better things I should do with my time?” “Is this really going to make me feel better?” “How is this going to benefit me in the long-run?”
  • Notice how you’re feeling after indulging in said activity. Are you happy? Satisfied? Really satisfied? Fulfilled? Empty?

Habits can be broken. Never let anyone tell you it’s impossible. It may be tiring and difficult at times, but it is very possible.

Interested in listening to the 9 min. talk? Click here to listen.

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