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Repeating ‘Bad’ Behaviors

Screen Shot 2016
The last post was an abridged version of a behavior cycle. We discussed how we first become triggered, then we act out our bad habit, and then we are rewarded. But this topic is one of those things I wish I would have known when I was younger, so I wanted to go into more detail about it in hopes that you’ll learn and recognize it about yourself earlier in life.
One Thursday my friend Vanessa had a rough day at work and because she was so busy, she didn’t eat lunch. She was stressed out about the situation, the rough day, and she was stressed out about not taking care of herself and eating. She started thinking about how much she resented her job and her boss for how much work she had and she had some negative thoughts about herself, including how dumb she was to not stop and eat. She started feeling dumb, sad, and disappointed in herself and she wanted to make herself feel better in the moment and for her, chocolate always made her feel better. (Even though she was trying to eater healthier and lose weight.) To make herself feel better in that moment, she planned to stop at the store on her way home for some. She set herself up for quick fix success by heading in the store’s direction, instead of heading toward home when she left work. While walking there, she convinced herself that she deserved some chocolate because of the day she had. She walked into the store and bought her chocolate and while walking home, she ate it. After the first bite she had an “ahhhh” moment of release and by the last bite she had promised herself that the next time she wouldn’t fall into the chocolate trap again. A week later she ended up doing the same thing again, and that time she felt even worse because she’d broken a promise to herself.
That’s the cycle, we go from triggered to promise to change in seconds and we repeat the bad behaviors we so baldy want to stop. For Vanessa, it’s chocolate, but for you it could be drugs, shopping, overeating, sex/pornography, stealing, lying, etc.
The way to stop repeating the bad behavior is to practice being aware and slowing your mind down. As soon as you feel triggered, acknowledge the negative thoughts, unpleasant emotions, and even the urge to want to use your go-to vice, and leave things there. Easier said than done, but it doesn’t take long to form a new, better habit. Once you become a pro at that, you can go deeper into the why.
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