Have you ever felt frustrated, wondering why you keep making a decision that does not support your goals such as bingeing, overspending, not exercising, etc? Because our behavior is driven by neural pathways in our brains that are reinforced over time, it takes conscious thought and redirection of those pathways to change habits or to make different decisions. You have WAY more power over this than you may think you do!
The first step is to recognize the issue keeping you from your goal. You may think it is one thing but when you really dig into it you realize that the core reason for the choice is something different. A good exercise is to ask “Why?” 5-10 times until you drill down the real issue at hand.
The second step is to analyze the reason(s) why you make a certain decision. I mean really dig into it. Is it loneliness that is triggering you to reach for the comfort of food? Is it anxiety that is leading you to go out shopping and spending money that you do not have to spend? This is the step that is really, truly soul searching work. Sometimes we learn to recognize that food has become a comfortable friend we lean on when we are sad or scared or depressed or lonely. If you can recognize and admit this, you are halfway there already!
Once you can identify what triggers a decision or behavior, now you have the power to create strategies for triggers. For example, if loneliness is a trigger, try creating a list of other things to do besides eating so that when you feel triggered you have a resource to tap for an alternate solution. Walking, cleaning, calling a friend, organizing a room in the house, volunteering, and so on. We all have hours we do not use in a week if you really look at our lives, so how do we spend them? How do we spend the talents we have been gifted? Sitting on a couch watching tv/looking at our phones and eating? We are made for so much more!
Practicing mindfulness will help you recognize when you are triggering. Learn to be aware of what your body is feeling and what your brain is thinking. Learn how to check in with your body during the course of the day to learn the nuances to your feelings. The faster you can catch the loneliness feeling the faster you can implement a course of action to ensure you do not reach for your best friend: the cookie!
The last practice that will help you over time to make different decisions is to recognize the lesson. When you are not successful, analyze what happened, what conditions were occurring, how you were feeling and what choices you made. This will help you glean data to use in the future. Reframe each unsuccessful moment as an opportunity to capture data in order to learn from that data instead of saying you “failed”. We do not fail kids in school for getting something wrong every once in a while, right? Because that’s not fair or the right thing. So why do we expect ourselves to be perfect all the time? So this practice is to identify what the lesson is, how it will shape your behavior in the future, and then MOVE ON. Do not allow yourself to get stuck in shame, frustration or self-destruction. Learn the lesson, apply the lesson and move on.