January 16, 2019 admin

How to win the battle with addictive behaviours

We have lots of things in our lives, that it’s worth finding the right line for.

A few examples are alcohol, social media, caffeine, sugar, Netflix, screen time etc. The list goes on.

I spend a lot of time thinking about stuff like this. I’m ultimately trying to get to what the right level of consumption is for me.

On one hand, most of these types of things bring pleasure in the moment, and they do add value to our lives. But, it’s very, very easy to over-indulge. And when we do, it ends up doing the exact opposite of bringing pleasure and value (the pleasure wears off and it has negative consequences).

The trick is in finding the right line. That’s the place where we can still experience things that bring pleasure, but without the negative consequences. Or, at least if there are some minimal negative consequences, it’s easily worth the trade off.

Over time, I’ve settled on a three step process for how to find the right line for these types of things. I wanted to share it, aswell as a recent example from my own life.

3 step process for finding the right line:

Step 1. Self awareness

As usual, it starts with self awareness. Without self awareness, we tend to passively drift into things, or just fit in with the norm.

Instead, it’s worth sitting down and spending some time thinking about what you’re trying to work out the right line for.

  • Why do you do it?
  • Does it actually bring you value? (be brutally honest with yourself)
  • How much time do you do it (be brutally, brutally honest with yourself)
  • Can you experience it in different ways, which influence the value and pleasure you get from it?

Social media is a good example. I’m convinced most people use social media because everyone else does. People feel they will miss out if they aren’t using it. It’s rarely used intentionally.

Instead, people jump blindly into things like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. They loosely follow / become friends with anyone. And before you know it, you’re spending hours every day scrolling through a feed that adds very little value to your life. It ends up becoming a form of distraction, and an addictive habit.

So, it’s really important to take a step back and think deeply about what you’re trying to find the right line for. This will be useful when it comes to making a decision for where the right line is.

Note: If you’re interested to see how I found the right line for social media, check out – Social media: The one thing I did, which finally got it under control.

Step 2. Do a Reset

This step is critical and essential. You’ll be tempted to skip it, but don’t.

It’s hard to work out the right line for something, if you don’t experience what it’s like to go without it (and how good it feels to go without it).

Often, it’s surprising just how good you feel without it. And that becomes a huge part in the decision for where to set the line for it.

I find that 14 days is the minimum period to eliminate something from your life – 30 days is even better.

Let’s not beat around the bush – it’s super hard to go cold turkey. If you drink multiple cups of coffee a day, it’s a big jump to cut it out entirely. If you eat a lot of crappy foods, it’s going to be hard to just stop. If you drink wine every night, the evenings are going to feel long without it. The first few days are always the worst.

There’s not much else to say – you just have to do it. You have to ride it out. After a few days, it does gets easier. Then, around the 7 day mark, you will start to get a feel for what it truly feels to not have it in your life. That’s why I think 14 days is the minimum period to go through a reset. It allows for 7 days of getting used to things, and then another 7 days to truly experience what it feels like to be without it.

Step 3. Decide the line

You now have to set some very clear rules / boundaries for how you will bring this ‘something’ back into your life.

DO NOT make this decision after the rest period is over. If you do this, you risk ending the reset without a plan. This is super dangerous. The likelihood is that you’ll just slip back to how you were before.

Make the decision on the last couple of days of the reset. This allows you to prepare for a smoother transition to the line you want.

Where the line is, is totally up to you. It goes back to being self aware of why you want it in your life, the pleasure it brings, and the negative consequences of over-consumption. Reflect on this.

The only thing I will say is that there’s usually no middle ground (phew, I finally got to the title of this post!). In my experience, the right line is usually closer to elimination.

For example, let’s say you drink 5+ cups of coffee a day. The right line will probably look more like one cup of coffee – before noon (not 3 cups, whenever you like). In some cases, it might even be right to eliminate it forever.

A recent example:

As I headed into 2019, there were a few things that I wanted to figure out the right line for.

The first was alcohol. I wouldn’t say I drink a lot, but I do find it easy to slip into over-consumption. A few too many consecutive nights of a few glasses of red wine. Or, the odd night out night out where I drink too much.

The second was eating a paleo diet. Recently, I’ve been hitting 70/30 consistency at best, and sometimes even treading closer to the middle ground (50 / 50). I’ve also had a few consecutive days of getting completely off track.

Lastly, I drink over 5 cups of tea at any time of the day – sometimes as much as 10 cups (hey, at least I’m in good company!). Until recently, it didn’t quite click that it’s a lot of caffeine to consume on a regular basis.

So, after some thinking about it (step one), I went into the new year committing to the following reset (step two):

  • No alcohol
  • Strict paleo eating (no wheat, dairy, legumes, sweeteners, chocolate, soft drinks or any processed foods)
  • 1 cup of caffeine per day – before noon

It’s been hard. Mostly, because I didn’t take the advice I often give and tried to change more than one thing at the same time (don’t do this!). Limiting caffeine was probably the hardest (I really do like my cups of tea 😉 ).

I ended the challenge this weekend just gone. I had originally decided to go the whole of January, but I found eliminating multiple things pretty tough. I came to the conclusion that I’d reached the period where I truly felt what it was like to eliminate these things from my life. I felt like I was in a good position to decide the right line, and then stick to it.

Whilst it was tough, I am 8 lbs lighter. I feel clearer headed. I have less bloat. I’ve been sleeping better. I’ve saved money (from less eating out and buying wine). And I’ll tell you what, I put love and care into making that one cup of tea a day – and I take my time drinking it! I definitely want to keep these benefits.

So, on the last couple of days of the rest period, I decided where I wanted to draw the line for these three things (step three). I set myself some clear rules and boundaries. I’m confident they will allow me to experience these things and get plenty of pleasure and value from them. But, also mitigate any of the potential negative side effects.

My line is:

Mon – Fri:

  • Strict paleo eating (no wheat, dairy, legumes, sweeteners, chocolate, soft drinks or any processed foods)
  • Time restricted eating. Eat between 12PM – 8PM (8 hours) and fast between 8PM – 12PM (16 hours).
  • 1 caffeine drink per day (before noon)
  • No alcohol (until 6PM on Fri)

Weekend:

  • 1 caffeine drink per day (before noon)
  • No alcohol (Sunday)
  • Ease up on strict paleo and time restricted eating (12PM – 8PM). But, still make fairly sensible choices (avoid going overboard and pigging out).

Overall, this is probably 80 / 20, or maybe even closer to 90 / 10. I will have a very strict week, but then relax up a bit over the weekend (with some sensible constraints).

This feels like exactly the right line for me. Maximum benefits, with minimum potential negative side effects. And, importantly, I know it’s something I can be happy with and consistently stick to.

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