Bad habits

I have a fair few bad habits – don’t we all? – and I love reading books about how the brain works.

I find it especially fascinating how the subconscious works. For example, when I was giving up smoking years ago, I would forget that I’d stopped and only remember when I was already smoking, having gone and bought a packet of cigarettes “without thinking”. Really.

One habit I am trying to break is eating while watching TV. I try and do stretches and yoga moves instead. Sometimes, though, I completely vague out and find myself eating without remembering that I don’t want to do this anymore.

I was reminded of this when reading about AA today and it occurred to me that maybe part of its success is the way they say the same things over and over? (Well at least I assume they do). And one of the purposes of repeating these mantras is that it might help to break the automatic behaviour patterns?

I’m going to try repeating the following rewordings of the first few “steps” to myself and see if that helps break the habit:

Step 1: I admit that I am powerless against the surfacing of my urges to eat from my lower brain and that I have stopped managing my own life.

Step 2: I believe that I have great power within myself—my highest human brain—and that I can use that power to restore myself to sanity.

Step 3: I have decided to use my highest human brain to exert my free will over the lower brain junk thoughts, and I have taken my life back.

This is adapted from the book, Brain Over Binge, which is a thought provoking read. I am not totally comfortable with the level of therapy bashing in this book. However I appreciate this is her story, truthfully told, and part of her story is that she came to doubt the value of therapy.

I myself don’t really understand how therapy works or if it even does work, but we really know so little about the brain that I think it is worth trying everything, just with a healthy level of skepticism and questioning.

I was never anorexic or bullimic but my brother had girlfriends who were. It was tragic and so common. I think I escaped an eating disorder in my teens because I was naturally skinny so never dieted. One of the things Kathryn argues in her book is that dieting as a teenager sets off dangerous automatic responses in the “lower” brain, and that dieting should be discouraged the same as smoking.

One of the things I liked about this book is that she presents her theories but is also upfront about how there is no scientific proof. Yet. I do think people should be able to share their thoughts, their hypotheses, without being shouted down. At the same time let’s test it scientifically and see if it is true for more than one person (and yes, scientific results should be questioned too).

If it works, it works.

Maybe one day we will even know why.