W e all have things we do to avoid discomfort of change and growth. Excessive shopping, surfing the internet, binge-watching tv. Checking your phone/social media news feed over a dozen times a day. Change feels scary. Our brain has evolved to repeat what we know, to be efficient, and to avoid expending excess energy required to do something new. And so, we've developed habits that keep us stagnant. How do you know if your guilty pleasures have spilled over into negative habits that keep you stuck? Negative consequences. Watching your favorite show Friday nights may feel like brain candy, but if you have a nagging feeling that it's taking you away from your exercise goal or getting training that would significantly help your career, then binge-watching is no longer your friend. Think of activities that feel good but have major negative consequences as having three characteristics: they’re habitual, produce a dopamine response and facilitate avoidance. If you always pick up a chocolate muffin with your coffee on the way to work, pick up your phone five times an hour, or pour a glass of wine as soon as you get home, that’s a habit. When one thing works fairly well, we keep doing it because it’s easier to follow established neuropathways than create new ones. It’s like your brain says, “you didn’t get eaten by a tiger today, so do exactly the same thing tomorrow and survival is likely.” Wellness Check: Are Your Habits Holding You Back? JULIE ERNST, ESQ Julie Ernst, LLC Certified Weight Loss & Overdrinking Coach email@example.com my political leaning. Habits, combined with positive reinforcement of dopamine release, create a strong biological urge to continue doing the same thing over and over, despite our knowing intellectually it contributes to an undesired result. Negative habits can be a symptom of avoidance. What would you be doing if you didn’t spend hours each week watching tv or looking at your phone? What if you did exercise, lose weight and stop drinking so much? You might be faced with what to do with your life. You might change the parts that make you anxious or doubtful. The muffin, your phone and wine all produce a dopamine hit. Sugar and white flour activate the same areas of the brain as heroin, flooding the brain with feel good chemicals. Your brain reinforces the action so you want to do it again. Here’s the deal: Life involves feeling the highs and the lows. You can’t have one without the other. When you are healthier, sober, or in a new job or relationship, you will still have times when you feel bad. It’s part of the full human experience. Before I deleted my news app, I was spending upwards of three hours a day checking the latest news stories, feeling triumphant with each piece that confirmed The good thing is that awareness is power. Becoming conscious that you’re comforting yourself with food, alcohol, Netflix, FaceBook, etc., and you’re getting a negative result is Step One. 28 August/September 2019 Step Two is to consider what you’re avoiding. Imagine what life would be like if you changed your behavior. Ask yourself what would be better or worse. If you aren’t sure why you’re overeating (or over drinking or over using your phone), the fastest way to find out is to stop and see what comes up. It won’t take long. Then you can get to work solving the real underlying issue. Visit https://julieernst.com to sign up for the Weight Loss for Attorneys Free Video Course: The Three Things You Must Know to Lose Weight.