In my previous blog post, I told you how I used dancing as a buffer. You might have also discovered your buffer and how it’s not serving you. You are now asking yourself...how do I stop?
How do we stop over-drinking, eating, and spending, the binge-watching of Netflix and even the buffers that disguise behind their “productivity labels” such as the long hours at work, over-exercising, cleaning and organizing your home?
Remember that you know these are buffers because you know you are creating a net negative result in your life, and when you remove these activities, you face the negative emotions you were trying to avoid and led you to buffer.
Let’s start by understanding the science behind why we avoid them in the first place. As Human Beings, our motivation for survival depend on three fundamental pursuits:
Our brain is designed in such a way that it will signal through our emotions if there is danger so we can act on it and avoid pain. It served us well when we had to run away from a saber-toothed tiger. Similarly, the dopamine production in our brain also served us well because it helped us find pleasure in food, water, and sex to keep us alive and keep reproducing. Conserving energy was more of the essence when the living conditions were not stable, and we needed to rest and gain strength to hunt when the food ran out or protect ourselves from predators.
This motivational triad served us well in our stone age, but it’s working against us now. Our brain did not evolve with us, so we find ourselves living in 2020 with a primitive brain.
What this means for us now is that we get in a little argument with our spouse, we feel angry, and we want to avoid the anger by going online and buying three pairs of shoes, a purse, and a dress. That hit of dopamine will make us feel so much better.
So we start to teach ourselves that there is a way out of our negative emotions. We can instantly feel pleasure after a few clicks. Our brain starts to learn this pattern, and shopping will become our go-to answer every time we want to avoid pain. We rinse and repeat.
But between the negative emotion and the last click that turned us into the proud owner of a new wardrobe are the thoughts that create the desire for it. Thoughts like “I deserve it,” “I want it,” “I worked hard for this,” “It’s just what I need,” “I will look fabulous in it,” etc.
The desire is now an urge we answer with every click of “add to cart” and “check out” buttons. We start to create the neural pathways and program our brain to the point where we are so automated that we don’t even recognize what took us there in the first place. A negative emotion? No! I don’t feel any negative emotions! I WANT this pair of shoes!
The same way we trained our brain to buffer, we’ll need to un-train it. We start by not answering the urges. Whenever you feel desire (created by all the lovely thoughts you tell yourself to want that buffer), you DON’T REWARD it. The more you practice leaving your urges unanswered, the closer you’ll get to stop the overspending.
The go-to number is 100. After one hundred unrewarded urges, you will have learned so much about yourself. You will be in touch with how urges feel in your body and all the thoughts that caused that desire. This mastery of your mind can evolve to the point of you becoming so aware that eventually, the thoughts will start to dissipate and fade away. You will have unwired those neural pathways, and you now get to create new ones that can generate desire for the things that will propel you in your life.
It doesn’t mean that you’ll never shop again, but you won’t do it to escape your negative emotions.
I pole dance now. It’s a hobby, nothing more or less. I don’t use it to escape. I love it, and I intentionally choose dancing to spend my free time.
I save my desire and energy to add value to my life in the form of a fulfilling career in coaching. I don’t hide behind dancing. I show up in my coaching, writing, and whatever I decide to put my mind and heart to. In essence, I purposely channel my desire in the direction I want to go.
I invite you to do the same.
If you need help to stop over-spending or any other buffer that is keeping you from moving forward with your life, I’m here to coach you through it. Contact me for your complimentary consultation.