How to Use Mind Power to Control Your Addictions
By Annie Grace, Author of This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness & Change Your Life
Dopamine is one of the main chemicals released in the brain when something pleasurable occurs. It regulates motivation — sending the signal, “This makes me happy!” — whether it's alcohol, drugs or a cup of coffee.
Now consider this: It sends that signal before you've ever even touched the object. It sends it when you sit down at the restaurant and consider which wine you're going to order.
Dopamine is released when you see a picture of french fries.
This is where you have a great opportunity to outsmart your brain. If you see a trigger, rather than acting on it take a step back and think through the urge; recognize the options available to you.
Make a choice using your logical, conscious mind rather than the impulsive, emotional unconscious mind.
Being mindful is about being in the present moment. When temptation strikes use that moment to observe. Pause for a moment to be conscious of what is going on right now.
If it's the environment you're surrounded by that is causing your temptation, step outside — take a walk around the block to clear your head.
Are you bored? Hungry? Anxious? Usually your temptation is just masking what you are really feeling. Be present, feel the emotions and work through them.
Mindfulness means enjoying that which is around us and just being. Do you ever get so flustered you have to remind yourself to breathe?
You shouldn't. Breathing should be relaxed, enjoyable — effortless. You might find yourself short of breath when the urge to give in to temptation strikes. Sit down with your back straight. Take a few deep breaths and relax your body. Don't try to control your breathing, just let it happen naturally.
Now observe the breath. Observe the feelings or sensations that are caused by the breath. Enjoy it and the peace that you've restored by simply breathing.
Drinking more than I wanted resulted in constant mental turmoil. It became very loud in my head and I just couldn't find peace. Through mindful reflection I realized that the internal chaos was actually cognitive dissonance — an argument between my conscious desire to drink less and my unconscious belief that alcohol was important in my life.
Bringing my unconscious desires into conscious awareness allowed me to heal and in the process I discovered silence. Not only the external talking stopped, but the talking inside.
True silence where both the mouth and the mind cease to talk is powerful. It is healing and cathartic.
Most bad habits also cause us stress. We end up carrying tension around in our bodies and are unable to relax.
Release that tension. Whether it's through yoga and meditation, a hot bath or running outside surrounded by nature — be conscious of letting the tension flow out along with the feelings associated with it.
Appreciate your surroundings and how they are positively impacting you in this moment.
Bad habits are impulsive. Mindless. They creep in when we aren't paying attention.
Train your brain to concentrate on the task at hand. Learn how to concentrate on the moment rather than borrowing trouble from the future.
If you start fretting about how stressed you'll be at 5 p.m., by 10 a.m. you are much more likely to reach for a cigarette or a drink when quitting time rolls around.
Focus on what is currently in front of you and dedicate your energy to it. You may find that you become more efficient in all your tasks in the process.
Giving in to a craving or addiction usually occurs because of past experiences telling us that something intolerable is about to occur and we require immediate relief in our chosen form.
Take note of your mental "chatter" that is occurring in that moment. Is it harsh, critical self-talk? Are you doubting yourself or putting yourself down? How is your body responding to it?
These situations often trigger discomfort, which leads to the habitual, automatic response that you've always turned to before.
Mindfully controlling your thoughts in these situations can help you train your brain to react differently in the future. This allows you to control your behaviors and escape from compulsive habits.
By being conscious and aware you can formulate your choices based on the present, rather than relying on past experiences deeply rooted in emotion rather than logic.
Annie Grace is the author of “This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness & Change Your Life.”
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