Cling To Your Good Habits, Or Make Some New Ones

Raise your hand if you make bad decisions about food, alcohol, cigarettes, or other negative coping mechanisms when you’re faced with something hard. I assume that’s most people. Under a regular amount of stress, it feels hard to keep making good choices-but under extreme stress it feels almost impossible. Most people assume that this happens because eating that food or drinking too much wine is a comfort. In hard times those are things you can access easily, and they will make you feel better, for at least a little while. Although the close correlation between our coping mechanism and comfort is certainly true, that’s not the full picture of why we struggle so much with seeking comfort in unhealthy habits. There’s an actual scientific reason why we begin making terrible decisions for ourselves and seem incapable of getting back on track in times of trouble. Not everyone is even aware of that. Maybe you’re one of those people who struggles with “willpower,” always blaming yourself for not being stronger. That self-recrimination will inevitably lead to shame if it didn’t start there to begin with. “I should be able to stop binge eating…” “Why aren’t I as strong as my sister, she never struggles like this…” Those thoughts continue to swirl in our heads, which only makes us feel worse and often triggers us to go right back into the bad decision we’re ashamed about. I can’t tell you the number of times in my life I ended up stressed and binge eating half my pantry late at night. The binging made me feel deeply ashamed before I’d even left the kitchen. That shame always led me to think, “What’s the difference now? May as well just eat everything.” And then I did. I ate until I would make myself sick during more hard seasons than I can count. It was a vicious and awful cycle that I know many of you find yourself in occasionally or even regularly. Listen up! There’s a reason this is happening, and it has nothing to do with your willpower. Not only that, but there’s a way to circumnavigate it, and it all starts with habits.

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