One morning last week I woke up, got out of bed, and wandered into the kitchen. I had my cup of coffee poured and was taking my first sip of the delicious, hot, smooth liquid before I even realized where I was and what I was doing.
I stopped and really thought about that for a second. All of the brain power required to move my body up and out of bed, walk down the hall into the kitchen and pour hot liquid into a cup without bumping into a wall or spilling a drop. My brain has cut me out of the entire process. All the required neurons in my brain have wired themselves together to operate without me. A fact which is both amazing and terrifying at the same time.
My brain has done this for one reason, efficiency. I have taught my brain coffee in the morning is important (because I do it over and over again) so it wants to make sure the task is completed with as much accuracy as possible. I can’t be trusted to repeat the same action all the time exactly the same way if I had to actually think about what I was doing.
If I were to break this wonderful coffee habit and I tell myself I was going stop going into the kitchen first thing and step outside to do a weather check instead. I would delay the moment of wanting coffee and consciously make a different choice. I am going to choose to act different. Except, I am not thinking about anything in the morning until after I have my first sip of coffee. I can’t change an action if I am not present enough to be thinking about it.
I would be more success breaking the coffee habit by changing anything prior to the first sip of coffee and it can’t be thought based. Remember, I am not thinking about anything, I am just doing. The change has to be a physical action, something to jolt me out of the routine.
If I changed my bedroom furniture around, I would have to think about how to exit the room. If I had the coffee pot in a different place or the cups in a different cupboard, I would have to think about it. It won’t take too long for the brain to adapt and incorporate these changes but there is time. That break in the action is when we gain the power to think about what we are doing.
There is power in the thought. The moment when we are actively thinking about what we are doing is the moment when we can change the process and therefore change the outcome. It might seem silly at first to break my coffee habit, I change the furniture in my bedroom however, it is an action that puts me in the present to choose.
Now, there is no way on this earth I am about to give up coffee but I do have a similar problem with eating. I am a chronic overeater and the root cause of my overeating is I don’t remember eating. If I don’t remember eating, I eat again, and again and again. I thought the answer was to journal. Write down what I ate and then I can look at the list and be reminded I ate. Except it never works. I eat and then get consumed in my work and find I am too busy to write. I have a habit of eating while I am working. I work from home so I make my breakfast/lunch/dinner and then promptly sit in front of the computer and work/eat. I did Weight Watchers for years and I have developed a real distain for journaling my food (perhaps a topic for another blog).
I started something new last week, though. I only eat at the table. No distractions. No book to read, no phone, no Netflix. Just me and my meal. I set the table while I cook my meal and then sit down at the table to eat. I am physically doing something different before my brain kicks itself over to autopilot. So far, so good. I eat less during the day because I am remembering I ate and I am more aware of how I was feeling when I was eating. I am trying a new rule, no eating unless I sit down at the table and take my time to eat. Everything. No more snacks on the go. I am finding I am actually getting hungry. It feels like I am eating more but the scale tells a different tale. I am caring less aboutwhatI eat, and more abouthowI eat.
Breaking habits suck. It is hard work but not being here, present in my life, sucks even more. I am going to start looking at things a little differently and really start to examine all my habits. It is time for a habitual hiatus!