The Power of Choice: Unhealthy Habits

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When it comes to unhealthy habits, those of us that are down in the trenches feel trapped. Perhaps you smoke and truly wish you didn’t but every time you have tried to stop, it never lasted. Or you may eat too much. You know your full but the flavors of the food haunt you and you can’t stop when you know you should. We feel powerless to these urges.

If this touches you personally, my heart hurts for you. I can relate. I too have been there. Most people do not understand. They would say, “well if you want to stop, just stop,” or “if you want to loose some weight, just eat less.” No shit Sherlock. If only it was that easy. But maybe, it is.

For some people, the animalistic part of the brain is stronger than in others.

What this means is those urges you feel are not felt by everyone. It is easier for some people to pass on cigarettes or second helpings because their animal brain remains more dormant.

Study of the human brain shows hope for this simplistic solution. When it comes to activities that enhance dopamine, the brains pleasure hormone (eating, drinking, smoking, sex, adrenaline stimulating activities and such), the subconscious part of the brain, what I will call the animal brain, takes the lead. This simplistic part of the brain’s goal is to keep you alive and happy. If there is food, it wants to keep you fed. When it comes to sex, it wants you to reproduce. With stimulants it wants to keep you happy.

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The good news is you aren’t crazy, alone or weak. The better news is you don’t have to listen to it. The conscious part of the brain, the part that makes you human, is the one responsible for your actions. This part of the brain pours the drink, lights the cigarette and takes the bite.

Conscious versus subconcious habit influence

When you over indulge, your conscious brain is taking direction from your subconscious brain. It may feel like you do not have control, but you do. There is one place where you can stop the cycle.

Your subconcious brain will have the urges but you can choose with your conscious brain not to follow them. You can intervene where the concious brain takes instruction from the subconscious brain. You have the power to choose not to follow the urges. It’s not as complicated as we think.

Sure, it is difficult at first to pause, listen to the subconscious urges and then observe them with the conscious mind but it is possible and with practice, the subconscious thoughts become more and more quiet.

It is like an animal that is used to getting fed at the table. It sits at the table waiting because through repetition and habit, it expects to get fed when it does so. But say you decide to stop this bad habit. For a while the dog will still sit there but over time it will learn it isn’t going to be fed any more and it will stop showing up.

Your animal brain is like this dog. It won’t get quiet right away but through repetition, it will stop expecting to indulge in the habits that do not promote health.

You really do have the power to choose. To choose health.