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Managing cravings and habits

Want to know the secret to ditching bad habits and getting in control of your cravings? The key is mindfulness and understanding a little more about how our body and mind work.


In our day to day lives we perform hundreds of thousands of actions that have become second nature. We don’t even have to think them through. These neural pathways are amazing at making us more efficient, but they can sometimes get in the way of us making positive changes. We’re hardwired to take the path of least resistance, and this is where our brain’s reward system kicks in too. 

We hit the chocolate after a rough day at work. The chocolate activates our brain’s reward releasing feel good chemicals like endorphins and dopamine. We learn to form a link between feeling rough after work, eating chocolate, then feeling happier. Each time we do this we’re reinforcing that link and making it harder to take control. We can turn this around. Let’s look at how. 

Just as we have set up a link in our mind between chocolate and stress, we can also break that link. It’s all about learning to listen to your body’s signals and using mindfulness techniques to overcome our urges. 

Judson Brewer, a mindfulness and neuroscience professor at Brown University, studied how our minds create habits and discovered that we can change our behaviours using mindfulness.  

By learning to listen to the thoughts, emotions and physical sensations going on in your body, you can interrupt the trigger-thought-craving-response-reward mechanism and get in control.  

Instead of hitting the chocolate after a stressful day, recognise that craving and replace it with another action. Practise a few minutes of deep breathing, have a cup of tea, or call a mate. Each time you replace the chocolate with a healthier, more mindful, action, you’ll be reinforcing good behaviours. This will help you manage your habits and set you on a path to being in control of your actions. 

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