Welcome back to the final part of this three-part series. In the first part I talked about the word willpower and how choices may be a better way to look at it. In the second part I talked about how it was important to want to change, understanding your habits and different methods of changing those habits. In this final part I will be talking about how you can hopefully recognize what your habits are and create an action plan to help yourself make better choices.
One of the big factors in habits are triggers. There is a very wide variety of different things that can be a trigger for people. Certain social or personal situations, addictions, stress, emotions, hunger, everyday situations, even foods themselves can be triggers for bad eating or drinking habits, just to name a few.
If you understand what triggers you have, you give yourself a much better chance at fighting your temptations. Knowing you are going into a certain situation that will give you a craving gives you the chance to combat it by planning ahead. You can come up with a game plan, find a way to substitute out the bad for something good, and start down a healthier path.
People are masters at making their own justifications for eating poorly. Unfortunately those justifications we make before eating never hold true once we are done. Most of the time we know this going on, but it helps us give ourselves a reason to eat what we want when we are in the moment. Try not to let your mind fool you. Be proactive instead of reactive. If you can stop and think things through ahead of time, you may be able to help yourself make better decisions.
Chances are if you struggle with willpower and choices, you may struggle with making good decisions on a whim. This is why creating an action plan ahead of time is crucial. If you can figure out what your triggers are and what situations may put you at risk, then you can create a plan ahead of time so you know how to react in those situations and help yourself make good decisions. Making sure you have healthy choices with you as much as possible is definitely a great starting point.
Maybe your cravings and habits do stem from an actual addiction. This is something I personally can speak to as I used to be addicted to energy drinks. I was drinking one or two per day for a quite awhile and it was even starting to cause medical problems for me. I knew I needed to stop, but couldn’t get myself to do it. I didn’t want to, they were too good!
Finally at work one day a co-worker / friend of mine was getting ready to attempt quitting smoking. One thing that works well for me is getting other people involved. So we made a deal with each other. He’d quit smoking and I’d stop drinking my energy drinks. I find it’s easy to let yourself down, but much harder to let someone else down. It was just what I needed to really give this thing a shot.
Once I began trying to quit, this is when I really began to notice the triggers I had that I never even noticed before. I actually realized that I rarely craved them at home, it was mostly at work. First thing in the morning when I got to work, I craved them bad! Was it work stress? Possibly, although I usually do a pretty good job at not getting very stressed out. I think it was more I was just accustomed to it. I woke up early, got to work, and wanted that pick-me-up. I was used to having an energy drink when I first got to work, and thus the trigger. I got that craving at the same time, during the same scenario, every day. Even the act of working on the spreadsheet I update every morning gave me that craving because I was accustomed to drinking one while I worked on it.
I ended up teaching myself a little trick to fight off those cravings. Whenever I got hit with a bad craving I’d pop a mint. I don’t know if it’s that fresh feeling in my mouth that made the craving go away or if the thought of an energy drink probably tasting terrible with a mint flavor in my mouth that made the craving go away, but I don’t really care, it worked! It’s now been a year and a half since my last energy drink.
This is one of the best ways to fight those cravings and bad habits. Replace them with healthier habits or find a way that works for you that will stop you from indulging. Pay attention to your weaknesses. If you aren’t aware of what your weaknesses are it will be difficult to find a solution to them. You may be doing things you aren’t even aware of. If you end up in a situation where you just over-indulged think back to what took place before it happened. Looks for triggers and common factors. We as people can learn a lot from our mistakes. You can either beat yourself up about them, or you can learn from them.
In part two of this series there was a comment from an anonymous person who said they are a therapist. One of the things this person said, which I loved, was that they use exercise to treat depression and anxiety and with great success. It was eye-opening, but at the same time not that surprising to me either.
I talk all the time about the benefits of exercise and mood. I think my friends get sick of it because whenever they are having a bad day or are in a bad mood for whatever reason, I always tell them to go exercise and they’ll feel better. Not really what they want to hear, but they usually admit when they do work out they end up feeling better! There is most definitely a correlation between fitness and mood and I believe the same could be said for improving your willpower.
Have you ever noticed if you stop with your exercise for a period of time suddenly the food choices aren’t quite as good either? If exercise makes for a clearer and happier mind, I would think one could come to the conclusion that it also helps you make better choices. Exercise isn’t just about having a rockin’ body, but of course that doesn’t hurt either!
I know making changes, especially changing habits, is a very difficult thing to do. However, if changing your body and your mind is important to you, seeing a good plan through will always be well worth it. Nobody ever regrets getting healthier, and neither will you. Don’t let your willpower get the best of you. Strengthen your willpower, one good decision at a time.