The sweets after dinner.
The binging on Netflix at night.
These are bad habits.
We do them in an effort to avoid negative emotion.
Your brain is wired to seek pleasure, avoid pain, and aim to be efficient–even to the detriment of your life.
The truth is the external false pleasures lead to negative consequences.
They hold you back from reaching your fullest potential.
Do you overeat when you’re stressed? What about overspend? Or overdrink? How about over-Netflix?
To stop any of your bad habits, listen to this episode.
I’ll show you exactly how to break your bad habits.
Here are more of my favorite resources for habits:
- 7 Steps To Break A Bad Habit (blog post)
- How To Live An Intentional Life (podcast)
- 11 Habits You Need To Stop (blog post)
- Overcoming Self Doubt Free Course (free training)
- Grow You (coaching)
Full Breaking Bad Habits Episode Transcript
Welcome to the Design Your Dream Life podcast where it’s all about designing your life on your terms and now your host, Natalie Bacon.
Hey, how are you? I hope you’re staying warm. I don’t think I left my apartment in three to four days. I am experiencing my first Chicago winter and just let me tell you I was wrong. It is not the same thing as a Cleveland or Columbus, Ohio winter. It is way worse and my car is snowed in. I haven’t gone out of my apartment literally in days. It’s kind of crazy. But I am just going with the flow here.
I’m actually going to be heading out of town soon, which is going to be super, super fun. I’m heading out West Arizona, California, going to see some sunshine. I’ve never missed it so much. So I hope you are finding a way to get some sun this winter, wherever you are. I love seeing my friends on Instagram who live in tropical places and it seems so foreign to me because I’m so used to having um, very white winters.
That’s just the Midwest girl and me. So today we are not going to be talking about winter. We are going to be talking about bad habits, some of them which you might have in the winter time. When I’m talking about bad habits, I love this topic because I’m talking about the stuff that isn’t so obvious, right? It’s overeating, over drinking, over working, over Netflixing, overspending. Basically anything that you do that you are like doing externally.
So you’re using an external thing to change how you feel emotionally and it’s to your own detriment. So the bad habit is going to have a negative consequence in your life. So for example, you drink too much and then you’re going to have a hangover the next day or you eat too many cookies or whatever. You binge and eat a bunch of pizza if you’re in Chicago and then you have an upset stomach and you end up gaining weight if you keep doing that.
So whether or not you realize that most of your bad habits are the result of wanting to escape negative emotion. And I didn’t learn this until about a year ago, and I’m telling you it rocked my world again. Why aren’t we taught this in school? No idea. So let me give you a little bit of background on how this all works.
So your brain is wired to naturally seek pleasure, avoid pain, and be efficient. It’s called the motivational triad, and it was the way the brain was developed, whether you believe it’s from God or however you’re, that’s just science. What your brain does, seek pleasure, avoid pain, and aims to be efficient. This was great, right? To get us up to modern times, right? Like back in the day, we’re in the cave and you have to kill your food and you need to stay alive. And it’s a survival mechanism and it’s good now, right?
A little kid burns their hand on the stove and they know that the stove is hot and they’re gonna stay safe by not touching the stove. So it really is useful. However, it is not useful in our modern society. The way that we use it to avoid emotional pain. So your brain doesn’t know the difference between physical pain and emotional pain. It will experience the same pain.
So when you experience fear, your brain like freaks out. It does not want you to feel that way. It doesn’t want you to feel that pain. So it wants to lessen the pain. So it’s going to aim to seek some pleasure to kind of numb that and make it feel better. And basically this is where all of your bad habits come in and by yours. I mean, mine too. When you’re stressed from a work, do you overeat?
Do you binge out on Netflix? I know so many people who will just like watch reruns of Netflix all night or like the office over and over. I’m not talking about just once in a while or like planning it out and treating yourself. I’m talking about these are like the bad habits that you’re in, that you’re doing to escape negative emotion.
So maybe you’re in the habit of having a glass of wine every night or two every night, or watching episodes of the office every night or eating like a bunch of bad food at night, whatever it is, whether it’s overeating over drinking over Netflixing, it could be overspending. You go shopping. All of it is in an effort to avoid that pain. And what’s happening is that your brain is so used to this like condensed version of pleasure that you’re going to need more and more pleasure and it’s a false pleasure.
So false pleasure is when you introduce excessive amounts of something unnatural to your brain and it has a reaction to it that’s not evolved to accommodate it. So there will be a negative consequence in your life. So let’s take wine. It’s just concentrated grapes, right? So when you drink wine, your brain gets this huge dopamine hit and it thinks that it’s a very important for survival.
Therefore, your brain is going to want to seek wine at the expense of other things. But this is artificial. Your brain thinks it’s amazing. The same thing with the sugar. The same thing with drugs. I was listening to someone’s podcast and she was saying, I never am going to tell my kids that drugs are bad. I’m going to tell them that drugs are amazing, right? Drugs are amazing. It’s the net consequence of them that are really, really bad, right?
No one would do them if they thought they weren’t going to be amazing, right? It’s like the sugar’s amazing. The wine’s amazing. It feels good to indulge, but it’s a false pleasure because you get that extreme hit and then you’re going to have a negative consequence in your life from it. Whether it’s, you know, most of us probably you’re listen to this, it’s not drugs, but it might overeating or over drinking, something like that.
Now naturally your brain should get a dopamine hit from eating just natural food, so berries, apples, like a piece of bread or chicken or something like that, whatever it is. But we have concentrated forms of all of this, so now we’re training our brain to seek way more pleasure and get way more dopamine than it needs. This applies to pretty much all forms, right? Whether it’s food, alcohol, any sort of pleasure, sex for porn, the more pleasure you have, the more pleasure you want, the more pleasure you need, right?
So if you are used to eating a bunch of cake and cookies and you go and have a berry and you’re not going to get that same dopamine hit, right? It just makes sense if you think about it, but the truth is that you don’t need this much pleasure, and when you’re getting the false pleasure, it’s going to have a negative consequence in your life.
You’re going to gain weight, you’re going to have those hangovers and maybe have other shameful, embarrassing consequences from alcohol in your life or whatever it is. If it’s a false pleasure, if you’re always seeking that external pleasure to make you feel better, to kind of numb that emotional pain, you are going to have a negative consequence in your life. Advertisers know this. They know how the brain works. That’s why we are constantly bombarded with ads that aim to quote unquote, make us feel better.
They want to get us to eat more. To drink more, to spend more money. There is tons of money being made on pleasure, right? You can’t make money teaching people how to be happy. It’s all on the pleasure and that is what advertisers are trying to do. So the more you purchase, the more you purchase, the more you eat, the more you eat, the more you watch porn, the more you watch porn. Pleasure gets pleasure. And we think we can always escape negative emotion because pleasure is so available to us in our daily lives. Right?
But we don’t think about it this way. When I was in college, I probably was my heaviest, I think definitely like 20-30 pounds heavier than I am now. And of course I was not thinking like, Oh I’m overeating to escape my negative emotion. I was just eating a ton.
I mean even to a few years ago I wasn’t 30 pounds, 20 pounds overweight, but I still was eating so much sweets. Like if I had to like work on a paper at night or like work really late or something, I used to eat like bags of Reese’s cups. Like that is my weakness. Like I would just indulge in it. And the reason that you can’t just stop is that if you try to stop this bad habit cold turkey without understanding why you’re doing it, without having a plan for what you’re going to do instead, you’re likely going to fail because you’re just going to shift it to a new false pleasure, right? So when I stopped eating sweets, I noticed that I started to drink more wine and it was very subtle, but it was like my treat. My brains still wanted the extra pleasure, the extra dopamine hit.
And while I didn’t know this at the time, that’s what was happening was I was feeling like I needed to reward myself maybe for a long day or something like that. So instead of eating the sweets, I would have a glass of wine. And this was just a way for me to escape negative emotion. So until you understand that over seeking these false pleasures is in an effort to escape negative emotion, you’re going to have a hard time breaking bad habits because you’re just going to shift one bad habit to the next.
So you have to understand the root cause of why you’re doing the bad habit, why you’re buffering, why you’re escaping that negative emotion. You have to have incredible awareness. So what I want you to do is to become really aware of your emotions. And I’m using the words, emotion and feeling interchangeably. So a feeling is just a vibration in your body.
That right there is kind of mind blowing, right? It’s just a vibration in your body. So notice how you’re feeling right now and notice how you feel all the time and start to pay attention to your feelings and start to separate yourself from your feelings. So this is really, really useful.
If you are feeling a negative emotion like stress or anxiety, you can separate yourself and notice it without resisting, avoiding or reacting to it. Remember that your thoughts cause your feelings. So you are actually causing yourself to feel exactly how you’re feeling and that’s just something to keep in mind. It doesn’t mean that you have to change how you’re feeling, but it does mean that you need to take responsibility for your feelings and not say that it’s being caused by something outside of you. If you’ve been in the habit of experiencing certain emotions consistently, you probably won’t even notice that you’re the one causing it by a thought.
The emotion will have become a habit. I learned this from the book Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself by Joe Dispenza. It’s an amazing book. I highly recommend it. I know I’ve already talked about it on here, but it’s really, really important that you understand that you’re the one causing your feelings and it’s important that you become the watcher.
So I always knew that I could watch my thoughts well I didn’t always know it, but I have known it for longer than I’ve known. I could watch my feelings. So when you feel an emotion, you can actually separate yourself from that emotion and just pay attention to it. And most of us will react, avoid or resist the emotion. So take someone yelling who looks super angry and they’re yelling, they’re not actually experiencing anger. They are reacting to anger. Okay? Because remember, anger, a feeling is just a vibration in your body, right?
When you resist it, when you avoid it, when you react to that emotion, that’s when you’re going to see the lashing out or the overeating or the whatever, however you’re choosing to react, avoid or resist it. So the goal is to not react, avoid or resist the emotion, but it’s to experience. It’s getting comfortable, feeling uncomfortable, but when you do this, it becomes less uncomfortable.
You still experienced negative emotion, but you don’t have those highs and lows and you’re not going to have the negative consequences of the bad habits because you are going to be willing to experience negative emotion. What I would do if I were you. What I tried to do sometimes is anytime you have an urge or like the next time you have an urge to avoid negative emotion, like you know, whatever the habit is, let’s say it’s coming home from work and you normally have a glass of wine and watch the office just take like one day off and don’t do that and allow yourself to be with the urge.
Now don’t go like eat a bunch of cookies instead. Right? Don’t shift the pleasure seeking to something else, but just allow the urge and the more that you allow the urges, the easier this will become and the more you’ll shift the bad habit and it will go away. But it does take discipline. It does take intentionality and it will cause to you probably having some withdraw, especially if you’re talking about sugar, your body will feel like it’s so hungry, but really that’s oftentimes just withdrawal from the concentrated sugar, right?
Especially if you’ve been at this for awhile. So whenever I joke around about how much I play with different constraints with respect to food, people look at me like I’m crazy. You know, whether it’s giving up eating meat or dairy or sweets or whatever or drinking less limiting one to two drinks, something like that.
People think I’m like nuts and I don’t do it from a place of, Oh my gosh, this is now my life’s constraint. Like I very much think that I could eat any of those things or drink any of those things again. But right now this is where I’m at. And I, I will tell people this and they make comments like, Oh, what’s the point in living? Right?
If you can’t eat cake or cheese or something like that. And I want you to notice yourself if you kind of fall into that category and see if the point of life is to just seek out these false pleasures. And I don’t want you to think this means that you can’t enjoy life and have any pleasure in your life. But what it means is that you want to plan it out ahead of time from your prefrontal cortex where you’re not doing it in an effort to avoid an emotion.
So it’s like, Oh, this Friday night I am going to stay in, have pizza and watch movies all night. And you know what? If that doesn’t have a negative consequence in your life, then great. But what you don’t want to do is allow yourself to just do whatever you want in the moment to avoid that negative emotion.
So the way that you know, if you should allow yourself to have that pleasure is if it has a negative consequence in your life. And also if you’re doing it in the moment, to avoid feeling a negative emotion versus planning it out ahead of time. And most of the time I think we’re doing it in the moment to avoid feeling a certain way. And I want to suggest to you that there is value in less pleasure and about less pleasure isn’t bad. And breaking these bad habits will actually lead to greater wellbeing in your life.
So taking away the artificial pleasure and learning how to experience your own emotions and actually how to cope will allow you to have a better experience of life. So you won’t have those highs and lows. Because even if it’s going out and buying a car, you know you can’t afford and you get that huge dopamine hit, right? It feels really, really good. And then you have payments after that and it always comes with the lows, right?
You, you’re making these payments and it’s terrible. And those are the negative consequences from overspending. And the same thing applies to overeating. You know, over Netflixing, whatever. You’re not going to have those. If you give up these false pleasures, you will be steady, you will still have negative emotion, but it’s not so extreme. It’s very even, and this is where you can find true wellbeing in your life.
And I just want you to imagine if you’re considering any of this, that you go to a party or you go to a restaurant and you’re not overdrinking and you’re not overeating, where you’re coming home from work and you’re not over Netflixing and whatever it is, and you’re just enjoying the experience. Like could you ever imagine that that would actually be better?
And I want you to think about like longterm, like for life and life in general, whether you know eating food for pleasure is really necessary for part of being alive or if maybe food is meant to be fueled. It’s funny, like we’re never taught this, we’re never taught to think about it and we’re just trained to believe that food should be really, really good and that every meal has to leave us very satisfied, right? You know, consider whether alcohol is really something that’s meant to serve you and that you want to be a part of your life and whether you want to continue buying so many things, right?
People comment all the time that my apartment is so minimalist. And it’s funny because I think there’s so much stuff in here. It’s like a lot. But then I go to someone else’s house and I’m like, Oh, I didn’t have something to compare it to. Right. And it’s like you know less can actually be a lot more fulfilling because you will feel very content. And that I think is where true wellbeing is.
And I know for myself, I’ve done it with minimalism, I’ve done it in ways with food and I still want to do it even more food in different ways. I heard um, one of my coaches say snacking is always an emotional event. Now I haven’t given up snacking completely, but if you really think about it, it is right. Oh we just want a little snack, right? It’s like to feel better.
We don’t actually need it. And again, if you’re feeling like, Oh, what, I’m hungry, it’s like, well you’re probably not you’re probably just experiencing some withdrawal cause we’re so used to that, that sugar and that flour. But really take a look at your life and start to pay attention to see if you want to change that.
I have an example. You know, if you have kids and they’re making a mess and fighting, and you may feel frustrated because you think that kids shouldn’t act like that, right? Remember, it’s your thought causing that feeling. It’s not actually them. And instead of doing the thought work and taking a look at what’s really going on with your thoughts and emotions, you decide to just sit down and pour yourself a glass of wine and eat the leftover pizza to kind of feel a little bit better. This is a huge pleasure for you.
It’s a dopamine hit to your brain, but notice that it doesn’t actually remove the frustration. It just sort of numbs it a little bit. So it’s less intense. And I love to think of the example of an empty glass. If you tap it with silverware, it’s going to make a loud sound. But if you fill it up with liquid and then tap it, the sound is lower and it’s softened.
So that’s kind of what happens when you fill yourself up with false pleasure, right? It’s not that the sound goes away, it’s not that the emotion goes away. It’s just softened, right? It’s still there. You’re still left with that, except now you’re left with frustration and you know how bad you feel after drinking and overeating. So pay attention to why you were indulging in the bad habit that you’re indulging in, why you’re trying so hard to escape the negative emotion and really think about ways that you can start to experience the emotions instead.
And again, I think it starts by noticing it, becoming aware of it, and then allowing yourself to feel the urge and do nothing. And that’s where you’ll start to see the transformation. And it’s so funny. I used to think about giving up sweets and think it was the most insane idea ever. Like there’s no way I loved sweets.
And now it’s not like I don’t ever have sweets. Actually. They’re these Lara bites and they’re these little balls. It’s like, I don’t know what it is. It’s supposed to be like a healthier sweet, right? That’s like my little pleasure. But I used to think that they were terrible and now it’s like, Ooh, I look forward to it, right? Because I don’t get the dopamine hit from the sugar that I used to eat. Like if I had a bag of Reese’s right now, my brain would freak out because I haven’t had that in so many years.
But I’m telling you, I was there years ago eating the bags of Reeses. I was doing it and now I don’t desire it in that way. I would certainly be sick if I did that. So even if it sounds crazy to you or you can’t imagine not desiring whatever it is that you’re buffering, you can actually do it. And it takes awareness, intentionality and just saying you’re going to start and then starting even in a very small way.
You will learn to experience your emotions and that’s a really good thing because then you get to the place of wellbeing and it’s so much better. Like food just isn’t a big deal to me. It’s not like a big part of my life. Like I dunno, it’s just not. But say that to someone who is really, really struggling with overeating. And I’m a life coach and a lot of the life coaches who I work with help clients who are struggling with overeating.
So that’s why I use that example. I’m constantly talking with them about this and the thought that they wouldn’t even really desire sweets or whatever it is for them is insane. They just can’t even fathom it. So whatever it is for you, whatever your buffer of choices, whether it’s overeating, over drinking, over Netflixing, over working, over, spending money, notice that and notice that you’re doing this to the detriment of your life longterm and now is the perfect time to break that habit.
Become aware of it and commit to allowing the urge and stead knowing that if you can get over this and overcome it, you will have so much greater wellbeing longterm in your future. I know you can do it. I’ve done it and I know that it really, really works. All right, I will see you in the next step.
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