TURN YOUR NEGATIVE HABIT INTO YOUR MIND GYM
Many of us have negative habits that range from snacking too much to drinking, smoking or gambling too much. We can feel as though we are hostages to those behaviors because they have so many ways of getting their way. Habits argue that we’ll feel better after indulging or that we’ll make changes “tomorrow,” or that we’ve “earned” the right to some sort of surrender. So it’s important to summon the right mental attitude to do battle with habits.
One of the best mental attitudes is to think of the existence of your habit as a “gym” for your mind. Seen this way, your addiction to cigarettes, for instance, isn’t just a scourge or the enemy, it’s an opportunity. Why? Because if you simply resist giving into your desire for a cigarette, you’ll be making your mind stronger. All you have to do is not pick up the package of cigarettes or not take out a cigarette or not light it or put it out before inhaling, and your mind will actually—truly—be strengthened.
Lifting weights is a good metaphor for turning your negative habit into your mind gym. Sure, it builds muscle when you lift weights, but it also builds muscle when you resist letting the weight fall back to its rack or onto the floor. The act of not letting go makes you stronger.
The opportunity to use resistance training for your mind is no different and is built into every negative habit. Talk about turning pain into power, right? All you have to do in order to make your mind stronger and make yourSELF stronger is to refuse to do what your habit is telling you to do. Feel like having a piece of cake? You aren’t just doing nothing when you refuse that impulse. You’re turning your habit—which had the capacity to weaken you—into the mind gym where you’re getting stronger.
Go home and watch television or nap, instead of going to the casino, and you’re actually exercising your mind. Pour out the bottle of alcohol you were about to drink from and you’re lifting the equivalent of 200 pound—with your mind.
You can have some fun with this. Try lifting the equivalent of more weight. Don’t just refrain from that piece of cake. Toss it out. Or drink some water, instead. Your mind muscles will start to ripple.
By the way, the mind gym isn’t open just to those with bad habits. It’s also open to those facing adversity that tempts them into giving up or giving in. Remind yourself that every hour you don’t give up or give in actually builds your mind musculature. You’re not just resisting, you’re making yourself stronger by resisting.
The mind gym is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Ready to join?
Dr. Keith Ablow
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