Yesterday I enjoyed a morning tea with colleagues. We all bring in a plate to share over a chat. They are generally not healthy options so my healthy mindset was tested. That test came in the form of homemade cupcakes.
The thing that stood out for me was the baked-in homemade jam. The taste immediately reminded me of my nana who passed around 30 years ago.
My family would take a 90-minute drive to visit her every month or so and she was always baking when we arrived. Scones, biscuits, apple pies and a plethora of baked goods greeted us, much of which we happily took home.
As a kid I enjoyed the food more than the company, but I still enjoyed time with my cousin, aunty and nana (I suppose my parents and sister as well :P). The memories and feelings from 3 decades ago returned the moment the old familiar taste hit my mouth.
Something I hadn’t tasted for 30 years still has a strong connection in my mind. This was a happy memory so I had no problems with it other than the urge to eat more cupcakes to continue that experience. If I allowed the feeling to take over my logical mind, I might have consumed a dozen cupcakes to keep the process going.
This illustrates one aspect of how our minds work. My mind associated good memories and feelings with a specific taste. With my self-awareness, I enjoyed the experience and moved on. However, a lot of people often get stuck in a negative cycle.
A thought, feeling, memory, image or sensation is associated to something you enjoy. Reliving that sensation might be exactly what you need in your life right now. So you keep doing whatever it is that triggers it. When the trigger is not good for you like sugary snacks, alcohol, nicotine, drugs, cheating on your partner, etc you continue a cycle that is difficult to stop. You may hate yourself for doing it, maybe not understanding why you did it in the first place. But you couldn’t stop in the moment.
This process is seen in other areas of life too. We hear stories all the time of people getting a new love interest after decades with one partner. Often they have been with their partner since their teens. Twenty years later, new-relationship giddiness triggers. All their friends hear they haven’t felt this way since their teenage years. The memories, feelings and urges replay in the same patterns that occurred 20 years prior. This can be a good thing if the new relationship is healthy and both people fully aware. Issues crop up when this overlaps an existing relationship, or the old patterns were not healthy to begin with. It is a common cause of cheating and comes with a cycle of guilt. They may want to stop but the old pattern sweeps them up time and again.
One of our mind’s primary functions is to keep us safe. Safety comes from the familiar which is why we form habits. To stop triggering the poor choices, we need to identify the trigger and interrupt it. Depending on its strength and age, it may take several attempts to succeed. But remember you learned this behaviour at some point, often with only one or two occurrences. It is technically as simple to change it as you learned it, however you must want it to change. If your reason to hold onto it is more powerful than the need to replace it, then you won’t be able to let it go on your own. A good life coach will help identify the correct trigger and clear it, though there is one very powerful technique you can try alone.
Spending time in mental reflection will provide a lot of benefits. Slowing down your thoughts, reducing stress, even just taking time for yourself does wonders. We can use this to create a new habit to substitute for the ones we want to remove.
Basic meditation is easy. Simply sit in a comfortable position away from distractions, close your eyes and focus on deep breathing. Allow any thoughts to drift away as you re-focus on your breath. Inhale for the same duration as you exhale, for example, 6 seconds in, 6 seconds out. Breathe into your belly button. We call this balanced breathing and it helps align your mind and body. It activates the parasympathetic nervous system which is our “rest and digest system”. Very useful for thinking clearly.
Set a gentle alarm for 5-15 minutes so you know when to finish the session.
Daily sessions create a new habit, a new familiar place for your mind’s safe zone. Now when a trigger occurs that we don’t want, we can take 2 or 3 balanced breaths and allow the triggering thoughts and feelings to waft away the same as during meditation.
When you are ready to take this further you can use guided meditations, but ensure they are from a well-trained hypnotist. General hypnotic meditations cover a lot of beneficial ground and are a phenomenal next step. However, a hypnotic meditation tailored specifically for you will provide exquisite growth.
Remember to meditate daily to build powerful momentum.
Enjoy Life. Get Healthy. Excel.
AJ Watson was born and raised in the Australian gold rush town of Ballarat. He is a Life Coach specialising in Health and Wellbeing. You can discover more of his story in the About AJ page on www.ajcoaching.com.au