It’s safe to say we’ve all been there at one time or another.
The plight of - I think one thing and then do the opposite - has plagued humankind since the beginning.
Even the bible tells us in Romans, ( vs. 15) For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want but I do the very thing I hate.
Our struggles are not just modern day struggles because we have so many more temptations and options available to us, although the latter is true. This struggle has been going on since the beginning of humanity.
So why do we reach for the brownie instead of the broccoli when we know we are trying to lose weight?
Why do we sit and binge watch TV or get lost in the black hole of social media when we’ve told ourselves we are going to hit the gym today?
Why do we have clutter that builds up and overflows when we tell ourselves today we’ll get to our messy desk?
The answer of course can be complicated. But here’s a few bite size nuggets to chew on that may help you understand you and your precious brain better and perhaps find a little compassion along the way for yourself when you notice you do the opposite of what you say you want.
1. We all are wired with a brain that is constantly asking for and seeking pleasure. Very often our brain will go toward the thought, what do I want right now, or what will bring me pleasure?
There Is another part of our brain that asks, how hard do I have to work to get that thing I desire? In the case of being at a party or gathering and the dessert table is right in front of you, the answer to the question “how hard do I have to work to get what I want” is, it’s right in front of me.
2. We have a built in reward system in our brain. It likes to get utilized. It’s why things like drugs, alcohol, food, sugar, sex, gambling etc. etc. can be so addicting especially when we’ve had early exposure to these activities or substances. Every time we repeatedly engage in one or more of these substances or activities we get a hit of dopamine (happy neurochemical) to our brain. In layman’s terms our brain says “that feels great, may I have another?” The pleasure center of our brain is like a dog wagging its tail and tongue for another treat even though barely a nanosecond has gone by since she got the last one.
3. We often choose the short term reward over the long term goals. After all, “it’s just one cookie…” There was a fascinating research study done some time ago called the marshmallow study. In a nutshell, young children were told they could have one marshmallow now, or, be given 2 marshmallows if they waited 20 minutes. They followed these kids into their adult years and found that the kids who “had to have the one marshmallow now” fared worse in many areas of life than the kids who were able to delay immediate gratification. Given our propensity to “want it now” we literally have to train our brain to slow down so we can even remember our long term goals. In real life it looks like choosing to walk away from the dessert table and go take a walk to remind yourself of your ultimate health goals!
Nearly all of us have the capacity to “retrain our brain” if given the right tools, time, practice, supportive environment etc. You are not stuck with the brain you have. Once you understand more about how your brain works, you can work with the brain you have.
Our hope at Live Well Kitsap is you might use this information to be kinder to yourself when you perceive that you “blew it” and didn’t do what you said you were going to do, but rather did just the opposite.
It’s not just about walking away from temptation, however slowing down and moving away from whatever you feel triggered by is a good start. If you want to learn more tools to help you accomplish your goals, reach out to a brain health coach, a qualified life coach and /or counselor or therapist who can guide you on the path to learning new ways to think, feel and choose differently.
The reward of feeling more in control of yourself and your choices is well worth the effort!