Our conscious brains can only handle so many things at once.
We can only cope with making a certain number of decisions or solving a certain number of problems.
That is why learned behaviours become automatic.
They are taken over by the subconscious brain, to allow our conscious brains to do something else.
The first time our brains encounter a new problem, they come up with a solution and then they remember the solution.
Over time, this remembered solution starts to become automatic.
This is very useful when it comes to learning new skills;
Think about when you started to learn to drive.
Did you wonder how you would ever reverse round a corner or parallel park?
Yet most of us who have been driving a while, can fully identify with the experience of arriving at a destination and not really remembering the drive!
While it is useful for us that our subconscious picks up the slack on a lot of things we need to do;
It can be very unhelpful when it is performing automatic habits we would prefer to lose.
Bad habits start by the brain looking for a solution to a problem.
Often, the problem is that we feel discomfort, maybe physically, mentally or emotionally.
The brain looks for a way to stop the discomfort.
If we eat something, drink something or even, have a cigarette;
The discomfort is temporarily solved. We feel a little bit better in that moment.
This then reinforces that solution to that problem.
The next time we are feeling this way, it is easier to reach for the same solution.
Over a period of time, the solution becomes automatic.
The double whammy of course, is that these automatic solutions are often things we would prefer not to be doing.
This is how people become alcoholics;
This is how we end up at the bottom of a packet of biscuits, when we are stressed, without really remembering eating them!
We have developed a habitual response.
Remember, when you were a child and something unpleasant happened.
Maybe you fell over, or had to have an injection.
You were upset and/or hurt.
Did your parents give you some sweets or take you to McDonalds for a treat?
Most of us start learning to soothe our uncomfortable feelings with food while we are still children.
So, how do we get out of it?
The first thing to do is to become aware of when we are performing these unconscious habits.
Noticing and Naming is something I have written about before.
We need to notice when these events happen.
When do we turn to food or drink and overindulge?
Once we can name the situations, we can start looking for alternative solutions.
This is the start of rewiring our habits.
First we have to be aware of them.
Understand the uncomfortable feelings behind them.
As soon as we are aware of them, we can replace the habit with something else.
Something that is more aligned to your overall goals.
Below is a sheet that you could download to use.