Almost everything we do is habitual. Researchers estimate about 90% of our thoughts (and many of the accompanying behaviours) each day are the same as they were the day before.
Maximum efficiency, minimal exertion for the brain.
But what happens when our habits are serving us poorly?
I spent 25 years stuck in patterns that led me to get anxious if my stomach felt full (I still don’t like the feeling) or binging and purging for hours on end because I ate half a chocolate bar and felt completely disgusted with myself. How it makes sense to follow half a chocolate bar with half a bakery and feel less disgusted, I don’t know, but there you go. I think I was just too exhausted to feel anything afterwards. I didn’t realise at the time, but that was kind of the point.
I have since learned about these sorts of behaviours – unhelpful or damaging behaviours we engage in because they mask some deeper discomfort we can’t cope with (or, more to the point, think we can’t cope with). I genuinely thought my eating disorder was a weight thing for over a decade. I had no idea it was masking all sorts of other mind gunk. The trouble was, even after realising that, the habit was so ingrained it took me another decade to get it in a headlock and several more years after that to eradicate it entirely. Even now, with all I know and all I do to manage my mental health, I sometimes hear it whispering to me.
“You could just let go for a bit. Imagine how good it would be.”
But now I know these whispers are the echoes of old habits. These echoes are not me and the echoes you hear are not you either. They are simply our brains running an outdated coding sequence that once served a purpose – albeit a maladaptive one!
I write this tonight because I still need reminding about these echoes. When you first change a habit, the old code is way stronger than the new one so the old thoughts and feelings that accompanied your previous habit run and run on loop, trying to get your attention. They are loud, insistent and uncomfortable. Depending on the habit you’re trying to break, it’s easy to see the relentlessness of the thoughts and the discomfort of the feelings as signs that you can’t do it.
You absolutely can do it.
So can I.
Let’s not derail ourselves just because our minds and bodies are echoing with nonsense we used to believe.
Image by Pixabay on Pexels.com