Realistic Lifestyle Change: How to End Cravings Holding You Back from Making Change

By Mandy Johnson -Originally posted at Renegade Wellness

Can’t kick your bad habit? See how cravings are making it hard to resist those changes you want to make.

We have all been there. It’s 8:00 pm, and we are maybe a bit hungry, and a plate of veggies isn’t going to hit the spot unless we are talking about the spot at the bottom of the garbage. We have an itch for something delightful and sweet. The craving has come for us, and it feels as powerful as Voldemort’s need to kill Harry Potter. Never fear science is here to help us understand cravings and how to crush them. In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg discusses how our brains are trained to crave through routine-reward habits. Scientists have shown that once an animal becomes used to a simple routine-reward habit such as “push this lever and you will get something to eat,’ their brain begins anticipating the reward even before they get it. If the animals don’t get their reward after being trained, they act frustrated and mopey. Both animals and humans have trained our brains to get pissed when we don’t give them the reward they expect.  However,  we are not stuck in the loops we create for ourselves.  Everyone’s brain is adaptable. The brain can change how nerves connect and when the nerves connect differently, we can create new routine-reward patterns. Recall back to last week where we discussed chunking in the brain. As a quick reminder, chunking occurs when we do a task repeatedly to the point where it becomes automatic. In Your Best Year Ever, Michael Hyatt notes that the key to changing any habit is not resisting cravings but redirecting them into a different pattern.

One of the best-known habit-changing organizations in the world uses redirection of cravings to great effectiveness. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) may have helped as many as ten million alcoholics achieve sobriety. AA asks participants to list what exactly they crave from drinking. Usually, factors like relaxation and companionship are far more important than intoxication. AA then suggests new routines that address those cravings.  Maintaining that new routine is the key to creating a new habit.  However, the critical action is to work on the task until you crave it. For example, you decide that talking to your coworker Matilda is what you enjoy the most from your usual coffee and donut break. You agree with Matilda to go for a fifteen-minute walk each workday instead of sitting in the break room. At first, you will miss that sugar and caffeine but what you enjoy more is connecting with Matilda and discussing the most recent episode of Ted Lasso. After a few weeks, you will look forward to the walk. You always will love sugar, but you won’t feel deprived because you meet your need to break from work and socialize.

Action Step for This Week: If you have a particular craving write it down and reflect on what you are trying to meet mentally with that craving. Self-reflection is key to breaking down your old habits and helping establish new ones. 

Looking Ahead: When it comes to breaking bad habits, it is vital to understand why you are putting yourself through this hard work. Why do you want to change? Next week I will discuss how critical your why is when creating a lasting lifestyle change.

This is a guest blog by Amanda (Mandy) Johnson of Renegade Wellness. Mandy empowers people to live their lives without physical limitations. This article was originally posted on her Substack.
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Mandy is an avid Full Focus Planner® user.

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