Why is it that we are so compelled- nay, driven- to these behaviors? What we need to recognize is that behind these impulsive actions lies a powerful emotion or void we are trying to fill. What emotional need is being filled or temporarily reduced when we engage in our vices? For all of us it is different, but the common culprits are stress, anger, anxiety, depression, or lack of self-confidence or worth. Heavy stuff, I know.
Although difficult to face, we need to be able to root out the cause of the behaviors if we ever hope to find true fulfillment or inner peace. We then need to find a better, healthier outlet for these emotional drives. Here is how to start:
1. Get a piece of paper and a pen.
2. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, slowing your heart rate and feeling yourself calm.
3. Visualize the behavior that you turn to in times of stress. What is it? What are you feeling? How does partaking in the vice make you feel?
4. Open your eyes and write down all of these things. Writing down what you are feeling and the behavioral outcomes helps to solidify in our minds how we react to situations.
It is important to first recognize what we are doing before we try to change them. By writing things down, you should be able to discover what you are truly feeling and what you truly need to quell the fire. Once you have pinpointed these needs, create alternative methods of dealing with them.
Take me, for example. I use cocktails to take the edge off after a stressful day. Instead, I should utilize this angst in physical activity- i.e. going for a run. The rhythmic pounding of my feet against the pavement and the physical exertion always leave me spent (in the best and most calming way). Another “me” example: When I feel anxious or pent up, I immediately turn to shopping. I still am not sure why it feels so good to get my hands on a new shirt or piece of home décor-- probably that temporary rush of endorphins and excitement. What I do know is that it is just that- temporary- and those feelings will inevitably be back. Instead, what I should do is go upstairs to my easel, squeeze some paints on a palette, and start painting. Between the new age piano station on Pandora and the creative focus of artistic endeavor, I find myself peaceful at heart, and able to move through the anxiety.
Now back to you. What are you truly desiring? What are you truly craving? Pay attention to your body and heart, and then answer its’ needs with appropriate behaviors. This might feel uncomfortable at first (change usually does), but then you will find your groove and be able to find that balance that you needed all along.