Good morning lovely people. Its that time of the week again, A-Z weekly Menopause blog and this week we find ourselves at K.
Now I have to be completely honest and open here and admit that I cannot track down a menopause symptom starting with K so I need to be inventive and so this week I will be talking about KICKING THOSE BAD HABITS – ok, so I know this might be pushing the A-Z reference and I know its not exactly a symptom…..however, it is true (and unfortunate) that often Menopause can lead us to dropping into some habits we wish we could break. For example….we know, weight management can get harder with the reduction in estrogen and often we can find ourselves watching the calories all week only to see very little change on the scales. The frustration of this can lead us to ordering the takeaway, opening the wine, and even dipping into the kid’s sweetie supply all in one evening out of pure defiance. The trouble is we then find ourselves cursing and berating ourselves the next day. We tell ourselves we are useless and rubbish for ruining the good work we have done and head to the fridge to console ourselves. The cycle can be exhausting but its good to know that these habits are simply a pattern of behavior that is stored in our hippocampus and can be reprogrammed
Many of you may have read a book by James Clear called ‘Atomic Habits’ (ISBN 978-0-593-1864-1) and if you haven’t I thouroughly recommend it if you want to understand more about changing habits as today I am just going to give you a quick overview.
So habits are all linked to a chemical that our body releases called Dopamine. Dopamine was part of the evolutionary devleopment of man as this chemical is released when a reward is exerienced for the first time. The feeling of that satisfying reward can become so strong that is can soon become a craving and actually start to dicate our actions, pulling us out of our intellectual, rational brain and pushing those primitive instincts. This sense of reward was vital to mans survival as it created motivation. If it felt good once then he wanted to carry out the action that made it feel good time and time again and what we’re talking about here, basically, is hunting and gathering. Not only was there the reward of food to sustain them but that feeling of achievement and success that we know is still important to us today. In our modern world often that achievement and success is atributed to work, finaces, material success and status and has moved far from the very basic beginnings of simply surviving. Sadly, also…. that sense of craving and reward is what leads to our modern day addictions such as gambling, drugs and alcohol.
Unfortunately what has also developed in our modern day lifestyles is that we have become so addicted to the Dopamine release that the results and actions often don’t even have any meaning. For example, computer games and scrolling social media have been recognised as prime actions to release Dopamine but sadly often leave us feeling deflated when we realise that we have sat up until 2am playing them, or berated ourselves we haven’t got that beautiful body like the celebs on Instagram….those rewards are now almost becoming punishments and leading us into a cycle of wanting more reward, yet we use the same pattern to try and achieve them!
So what makes something become a habit? Before a habit is learned Dopamine is released when we expereince what feels like a reward for the first time (for example you kill the Zombies and gain extra points…ching, ching…..your friends like your photo on Facebook and tell you you’re looking great.) The next time round the Dopamine rises before even taking the action in anticipation of that feeling you had last time and this is the moment that a cue is recognised.
James Clear talks about a cycle of cue, craving, response and reward and states that the spike of reward is what leads us to the desire and craving to take the action. The problem is that once we have experienced it once the actual reward itself does not release additional Dopamine, however, if we have had that cue and we do not see it through to the reward stage we actually have a drop in Dopamine which is what leads us to disapointment.
So with all of this in mind, how can we change our habits. Well, personally I believe that even understaning that primitive process that is taking place can help us because we have evolved and have the capacity to make inteligent decisions and override the Dopamine desire from bad habits and replace them with good habits once we know what is happening and that we can override them. In addition, if we can reframe the outcomes and focus on our goals then this can help us see the longer term reward.
For example, its January….in May my son is getting married and I want to be looking my best for the special day. For me that means I would really like to shed a few pounds and I’ve been doing well on my diet plan….but hey, its cold and dull and a bit miserable…I think I’d like a ‘reward’ to cheer me up. I’ve been on track all week but Friday night comes and I think blow it….takeaway and wine it is!! I know that tomorrow I’m going to be disappointed in myself if I do this, so what do I do? Firstly you need to be really clear on you goal.
Solution Focused Therapy is all about working on bringing those intentions alive….how will it feel to wake up on the morning of the wedding and put on my new outfit that’s two sizes smaller than I am now?
Ahh, that would be brilliant…. Why? Well, I would just feel really confident…..and what difference will that make? I think I’ll enjoy the day more…..what will you be doing if you’re enjoying the day more? I think I will be more chatty with other guests, probaly more relaxed, laughing more maybe. What else? I’ll probaly get up and have a dance in the evening and really enjoy the whole day fully…..who will see how much you’re enjoying the day? Well my son and new daughter in law….how do you think this will make them feel? I think they will be really pleased that its been such a lovel day for me as well as them…..and how will that make you feel? I will feel so pleased that their special day really has been special because everyone enjoyed it.
If we can visualise successful outcomings on the wider level of just two dress sizes smaller, this can act as our reward and can take us away from that quick fix reward and lead to longer term happiness and success. This wider perspective allows us to still feel motivated and focused (as primitive man did) but not by functioning purely from our primitive brain of the here and now hit. We have evolved and this is how our intellectual, rational brain can support and manage our habits in a more positive way. We can re-program our way out of the habits that can be harmful and add steps into our lives to incorporate the good habits that bring postive rewards. Strengthening the steps, brings them power, this brings you control and control is what brings rewards and success.
As you know by now though if you have read my other blogs, we can really only achieve these goals when we are keeping our stress buckets in check. If we are feeling overwhelmed and stressed and constantly at tipping point we are never going to be able to engage our rational thinking…..keep working on those postives in your life, and don’t forget the wonders of hypnotherapy trance and how it can empty that stress bucket and keep you in your intellectual brain.
Why not start today by setting those intentions, focusing on those goals and working on that stress bucket – you can kick those habits, you can replace them with the new patterns of behaviour to get uyou to a place where you are living your best life.
Why not give me a call to arrange your FREE Initial Consultation to discuss your goals and let us work together to achieve them.