“Every decision you make in life is to either avoid pain or gain pleasure.” – Sigmund Freud – The Pleasure Principle
It sounds like a bold statement from what some would think of as a Coo-Coo Psychoanalyst. But, as I got to thinking about it more, it’s pretty darn true! We are ultimately avoiding pain or gaining pleasure through our daily actions and decisions we make in each moment.
For instance, think about all the pleasure we get from:
- reading & learning something new to advance your life
- planning our next travel adventure
- scrolling through FB for a quick distraction
- working out & eating healthy
- going to work
- volunteering for a worthy cause
- saving money for the future
- socializing and hanging with friends and family
On the flip side, look at some of things we do to avoid pain or painful feelings:
- binge on foods high in sugar, salt, and fat
- drink alcohol, wine, or take drugs (both legal and illegal)
- eat our way through the house
- watch endless hours of TV to escape the stress of our day
- procrastinate having tough conversations with those close to us
- spend money we don’t have (retail therapy)
What’s even crazier is that some of the things listed above, especially alcohol, money, drugs, and FOOD, help us to do both, avoid pain and gain pleasure! We’ve all had an experience where we were feeling sad, lonely, anxious, or depressed, and a pint of ice cream or bottle of wine, helped us to avoid those painful feelings and brought us instant relief and pleasure within moments.
Dr. William Glasser, an internationally recognized Psychiatrist, even states in his work that any substance that can both help us to avoid pain AND that gives us an immediate dose of pleasure, is what causes us to get addicted to certain activities, FOOD, and substances.
AWWWWH! Addiction…What Are We To Do?
First of all, don’t be surprised or feel bad if you’ve been using food, drugs, money (retail therapy), or alcohol to cope with your feelings or have even become addicted to one of these substances. I’d say that all of us are to some extent, whether we want to admit or not!
But, now it’s time to think about how this seemingly harmful addiction could be affecting our health & fitness goals, whatever they may be.
Next, I’ll point out that studies show that we’re more likely to try and avoid pain or painful feelings than to gain pleasure, so this is where you can outsmart The Addiction Trap. However, if you’re suffering from severe addiction, please seek professional help, as the following points will only help mild addiction and cravings.
Get In Touch With The PAIN Your Current Decisions Cost You
For example, if you’re trying to lose weight or lead a healthier lifestyle, you will have to really think about the pain your current choices could cost you. It’s easy to eat foods high in fat, salt, and sugar, NOW, but have you ever thought about what it’s like to have Diabetes? It’s a nasty disease that causes kidney failure, blindness, infections, even more weight gain, poor circulation, and weakness, just to name a few. What about heart disease or cancer? Really think about the agony those diseases and how your daily behavior choices today will compound over time and either cause pain or pleasure in the future!
Get In A Better Relationship With Your Future Self
This is something I learned from Kelly McGonigal, and her book The Willpower Instinct. We have a hard time imagining our future self sometimes, and how the actions we take today, affect the future self, as we are so hard-wired for immediate gratification of the current self.
But, what if you spent some time thinking of your future self and how he/she would feel if you took actions to take a little bit better care of yourself today? What would your future self tell you in this moment? Or, even imaging them thanking you for choosing your health, saving money, etc., in this moment because you’ve made life easier for your future self.
Kelly even suggested using a Free App like Aging Booth to snap a shot of your current self, and then it ages you, so you can put a face with your future self and feel more of an attachment to your future. Sounds weird, but there’s been scientific studies on this that proves it works!
Get Better At Noticing When You’re Reaching For Your Coping Mechanism
Some of our behaviors have come so automatic that we don’t even realize we’re pouring that glass of wine after a long, stressful day, or reaching for that piece of chocolate. A lot of the time, we are just doing what we ALWAYS DO! However, I’d be willing to bet that over time you’ve started eating more chocolate and drinking more wine to get the same dose of pleasure.
That’s how addiction grabs ahold of you. You need more and more to get that high or dose of pleasure you’re chasing to cope. This compounds on a daily basis to disrupt our health, both physically, emotionally, and mentally.
If you want to get better at catching The Addiction Trap and making a different decision in the moment, you have to Stop, Notice, & Think about your actions through increased Mindfulness & Self-Awareness. “How do I do that?”, you may ask. I’ve got you covered! Click the link below and get started immediately.
This week, focus on your addictions and how you’re using them to cope. Think about how your choices today will affect your health goals tomorrow! Remember, once you decide to commit 100% to choosing something different, YOU WILL!
Thanks for stopping by,
Today’s post inspired by Day 3 of The 30 Day Sobriety Solution by Jack Canfield and Dave Andrews.