We all possess bad habits, but one psychiatrist believes that we can break them through the medium of mindfulness.
Chances are, on more than one occasion you’ve found yourself up late at night, scrolling endlessly through Facebook or Instagram, despite your original intentions of going to sleep. You might even be doing it right now.
Well, you’re not alone.
Social media addiction is becoming an alarmingly prevalent problem.
For a long while now, we’ve been able to access an infinite amount of (often useless) information at a mere click of a button. The cost of this technological boom means we are constantly feeling the pressure to try to keep on top of things, resulting in technology addiction, information overload, increased distractibility, and low-grade background anxiety.
If we’re not in control of our relationship with technology, social media is just one of the many bad habits we can become a slave to.
We need an antidote for this situation.
One cure is mindfulness meditation, which is a training that has its origins in Buddhism, but is being proven by science to be a powerful tool for helping us break bad habits.
Elise Bialylew is a doctor trained in psychiatry and the founder of Mindful in May, the world’s largest online global mindfulness fundraising campaign for global poverty, featuring the world’s leading mindfulness experts. She says that mindfulness is a training that helps us become more present, self-aware and better at breaking bad habits that negatively impact our lives.
We chatted to Elise to find out exactly how mindfulness can help us kick those habits that are not serving us so well, and this is what she shared.
To understand how mindfulness can help us break bad habits, it’s crucial to understand how habits form in the brain. There is a part of our brain called the “corpus striatum”, which is a very deep and powerful part that functions as our habit centre. It’s the part of our brain that lets us develop automatic behaviours through repetition. There is a positive and a negative side to this. The good side is that if you wire good habits into the habit centre, it will run your behaviour automatically, without your awareness. It’s like how we can drive a car without consciously thinking about how to actually drive.
However, the habit centre can work against us. There is another part of the brain, the craving part of the brain, called the “nucleus accumbens”, which is situated right near the habit centre, and leads to a lot of these automatic habits forming. Craving-related behaviours that you do repetitively get programmed into the habit centre too. For example, if you crave chocolate when you’re feeling tired or sad and you repetitively eat it, the habit centre will take over and before you know it, you’ll be acting on your cravings for chocolate and eating it with no real conscious awareness.
Mindfulness can help us break habits because it helps us become more aware of the automatic behaviours that drive us, and ultimately helps us break the habit loop. So, as we become more aware of what is happening from moment to moment through mindfulness training, somewhere between having the urge for a chocolate and reaching into the pantry, we’ll remember to pause and ask ourselves, “do I really want to be eating this now?” As you repeatedly bring this mindfulness to moments of craving, you’ll be rewiring your brain in ways that make you master, rather than slave of your own mind.”
So, if you – like me – too often find yourself walking around like a zombie due to too much late-night scrolling, then it might be time to wake up and embrace a little mindfulness training. I’m sure I could find out more on Facebook.
I’ll take a look tonight…