Humans are neurologically wired for addiction. It can affect anyone from a homeless person to a rich celebrity. Why? Why would someone who has everything want to compulsively use & abuse a substance? Can one beat addiction? Absolutely.
Our nervous system is made of connections. These connections are formed to make you, you. The more certain behaviors, movements, thoughts, etc, are repeated, the stronger these connections become. Our overall personality is shaped by these neuronal connections. Even the way we walk, the way we talk, our mannerisms… everything. These can be looked at as addictions or habitual ways of being or synaptic connections that are reinforced via repetition. For example, we all have our own walk. If your mother sees you from afar, she can tell it’s you just by the way you walk. It is a pattern your nervous system has honed into which is continually reinforced by strengthening synaptic connections. On top of our nervous system being designed to form & strengthen patterns, we have a pleasure/reward system which further reinforces these connections. Our nervous system has evolved this pattern recognition & pleasure/reward system in order to keep us alive & motivated to survive & reproduce. However, now that our society has evolved at such a high rate, we now have an abundance of comfort & pleasure. Now, with our food, alcohol, drugs, media, comfort/lack of challenge, etc, our pleasure/reward centers are overstimulated & we are constantly being subconsciously encouraged to consume. The overstimulation of our pleasure/reward centers forces your brain to adapt by decreasing the amount of receptors for rewarding neurotransmitters; meaning it will take a lot more of a pleasurable stimulus for you to feel good. This is why, in our novel world of iPads & McFlurry’s, children are not interested in playing outside. They’re too busy shocking the hell out of their pleasure centers.
So, our biology gears us to search out that which will yield high reward (lots of dopamine). That which yields high reward is everywhere. Your TV, your phone, candy, soda, alcohol, porn, drugs… you name it. It’s abundant. We seek these pleasures out, we’re biologically rewarded & then hardwired to continue to repeat this behavior because it yields high reward. Every time the behavior is repeated, synaptic connections are reinforced making it very difficult to stop.
Our society’s addiction to consumption further instills addictive tendencies & pleasure seeking. With all of this said, I hope you can now stop blaming yourself for addiction. Take full responsibility for your actions & behavior, but acknowledge that you are wired for addiction. So, how can we fight our own innate programming & take control of our cravings, behavior & life? I have come up with 3 methods you can begin to implement into your daily life to help restore your pleasure/reward centers & remove unwanted habits & behaviors from your life.
- Write down exactly why you want to remove this habit & speak it out loud. Writing things down & speaking them aloud makes it more real to your mind. Your goals will be clearer & more tangible to your subconscious mind. If you want to get to the root of your addiction & pull the weed out, you must access your subconscious mind. Make this your mantra. Write it down & speak it aloud every morning & evening. Ingrain this into your mind. For example, “I am going to stop smoking cigarettes because I don’t want lung cancer & a slow, painful death”.
- Replace your bad habit with a good one. We are creatures of habit, so merely cutting a habit out of your life is not as effective as replacing it. Instead of nervously chewing your fingernails during the time you would normally smoke, why don’t you go take a yoga class? Or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu? Do something new & challenging. Something that you pay for & are obligated to go to. If you pay for a monthly subscription to an MMA gym, for example, you’ll feel obligated to go. You can obviously replace your bad habit with anything healthy, like taking a walk or going for a run or reading… but I find that the obligation factor can prove more useful in replacing a compulsive behavior.
- Get uncomfortable. Engage in intense workouts, try fasting, take cold showers, whatever. Go challenge yourself. Put yourself in uncomfortable situations. Not only will this do wonders for your pleasure/reward centers, but you’ll be forming new synaptic connections. You will begin to shift your mindset from pleasure seeking to goal crushing. Forcing yourself to endure discomfort will exercise your willpower & increase your sensitivity to pleasure. Not to mention, you’ll feel great sense of accomplishment; a potent, natural high.
Try these methods to beat your sugar cravings, alcoholic tendencies, smoking, etc. It’s no quick fix. It takes time & effort. You will fail many times, but never give up. Persistence & consistency will always prevail. Learn to use our natural habitual ways to accomplish your goals & be the strongest version of yourself. Best of luck, please reach out for support/questions. Also, let me know if this helps!