It has been a personal crusade of mine over the past year or two to to discover what my default behaviors are and how I can change them. It isn’t just one specific behavior but the whole spectrum of behaviors.

In one of my earlier blogs I mentioned writing down things that make you “suffer”, one of the first things on my list was driving and the frustrations I felt when being behind a person driving slowly or the angry feeling I get when someone is driving aggressively. While I haven’t completely rid myself of my old behaviors, I have changed my opinion that the person driving slowly in front of me could be my mother or grandmother and the person driving aggressively may have a medical emergency. If I don’t remain conscious of this behavior, I find that anger and frustration rise again but usually I can recognize it and remind myself of who may be in the other vehicle.

In my life I have tackled various habits and behavior; smoking, alcohol, caffeine and food. Some of these habits were very easy to change while others have been very difficult and even to this day, I tend to fall back on old habits and behaviors

One of the biggest obstacles of change I find is we are seemingly pre-programmed to act or react in certain ways. When caught in a difficult situations, we may respond in an angry tone. If we smoke, we may find relief in a cigarette to calm the nerves, we may resort to alcohol in an effort to soften the stress from the day or maybe find solace in comfort food. For lack of a better word, these are habits, habits are formed and if we do them long enough, they become our default. There are other aspects in play such as an addiction.

It is not easy to stop this default behavior but the best place to start, is to recognize the behaviors.

In relation to caffeine, alcohol and nicotine, these habits cause an increase dopamine in the “reward center” of your brain so when you stop, you may feel moody, lethargic, your brains “reward center” is asking you for more caffeine, alcohol or nicotine because it wants to be happy again.

When I gave up nicotine, I tried to cut down without much success, I used nicotine lozenges but the draw to the nicotine shifted to the lozenges. I ended up using Chantix for about two weeks as it raised the dopamine levels but just slightly. When I quit caffeine, I lowered the amount of caffeinated coffee I drank and switched over to decaf, decaf still has a small amount of caffeine so when I quit for good, I experienced sleepiness and a dull headache for four days due to the withdrawal. As for alcohol, I was ready, so I just quit. The process when quitting caffeine, alcohol and nicotine turned out to be the same. The most difficult part was the first few days, during the first few days all it takes is one puff or one drink and you can find yourself addicted again. With coffee, I’d wake up on a Saturday morning and just crave a cup. Even after a year of quitting smoking, every once in a while, the thoughts of a cigarette would pop up in my mind. Alcohol seemed slightly easier for me but about 3 months into my quit, I felt safe, had a drink and that got the ball rolling on a second, a third… a drink on the second day and the next.. After about 3 months, I quit alcohol again and after 4 months of not drinking and feeling safe again, I started drinking again! I knew at that point, with any addiction, that safe feeling is just my addiction talking. I think the biggest success comes when you realize that craving for a cigarette, a cup of coffee or some alcohol is just your addiction talking to you- You just need to be on guard for when it does start talking to you and you need to understand that you just need to say no. Some of you may think “quitting coffee??”- It was an experiment as I wanted to concentrate on getting rid of all addictions.

I really meant to focus on other behaviors such as anger, attachment, cravings, ignorance and… well, what behaviors are you looking to change? The topic of addiction behavior makes a great segue to discussing what you need to do with changing your default behaviors.

In order to change behaviors, you need to recognize them. Sometimes you can discover these behaviors on your own, other times someone may point them out to you. You may have behaved a certain way all your life and it has become normal to you. Once you can see the behavior for yourself, you can try to figure out how or what causes this behavior to arise. Then you really need to work at recognizing the behavior so you can take steps to change it. Even if you already exhibited the behavior, you can take steps to correct it.

Say someone knows if they push your buttons, it causes you to get angry. While it is wrong for them to push your buttons, it may be amusing to them and others that you get so worked up. Realize this! The next time it happens, you may initially get angry but then realize the game they are playing, it is to get you all flustered in front of everyone. Even though you may have already gotten flustered, you can laugh and say “ha ha, I see what you are trying to do” and smile, let it go. The next time they push your buttons, hopefully you can see it ahead of time and say “ha ha, I see what you are trying to do”, smile and let it go. Subsequent times, just smile. It may take practice, you may be embarrassed at how easily someone can manipulate you but when you can correct the behavior, you will feel so much better.

if for instance, you find yourself complaining when you get busy, you too can try to recognize that you are complaining. It may just be the way you have been all your life. When you start working on not complaining, you may get frustrated that you are unable to shift your focus to not complaining. Do not take this negatively. Focus on making it a positive. If you find yourself complaining again, take ownership! Say to yourself, or to others around you “Why am I complaining?” and then say  “on the days it gets busy like this, my day goes so much faster”. Practice finding the positive in the situation, smile, hum a tune. This is one behavior that even I need help with focusing on. I can go weeks being upbeat and positive and then find myself extremely busy and resorting to negative behavior but the good news is that I can now detect the behavior quicker which results in me being able to turn the behavior quicker and get myself into a better mood.

With everything discussed here, it takes practice, you need to remain vigilant and not give up.  Inevitably, something we deem as “bad” will happen. Having something “bad” happen does not mean you have to give up and toss everything out the window. It just means you need to temporarily refocus until things get back to normal again.

Hope this helps!

 

 

 

 

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