By now, I hope you are recognizing the mind chatter going on in your head. What are you saying to yourself? Is it judging or is it in a learning framework? For me, when I am taking a risk or in an unfamiliar situation, I am surprised how quickly those thoughts of, “You can’t do that. What are you thinking? Who do you think you are anyway?” occur. When making changes in our lives and establishing new habits, it is easy to judge ourselves when we don’t reach the vision we have in mind. One way to redirect the judging is with recognition that you are talking to yourself that way. Then, with that recognition you can begin to rewire your brain to “veto that” type of talk and break the habits you want to break.
When starting to make a change, like not eating snacks, the brain generates a signal, “a readiness potential” to grab a snack in response to an emotion perhaps, about five-tenths of a second before we actually go to the refrigerator to get the snack. The bad news is that if we define free will as the ability to consciously generate readiness potentials, we don’t have free will. I often would wonder, why can’t I stop myself from getting that snack out of the refrigerator? The fact is that the brain is constantly in processing mode. So thoughts come continually. We don’t even become aware of the thoughts, until three-tenths of a second after the brain registers the thought.
So the process goes like this:
.5 of a second – unconscious readiness potential– as an option for action- no free will here
.2 of a second – urge to act ———— Veto Power! Choose to do something else such as close the refrigerator or think about something else.
0 second- we act —- either we eat the snack or close the refrigerator door and walk away
Power to Break a Habit
Even though it is a very tiny time period, by becoming aware that we do have a choice and using the veto power, we are actually rewiring a faulty brain system. For me, I have been using this to reconsider what I am eating. I have discovered chocolate gives me a migraine. So when I get the urge for chocolate (that hasn’t gone away),in that .2 of a second, I remind myself of the last migraine I had and don’t eat chocolate. Granted I don’t have chocolate in the house now, but I am aware of the thought process I am using when that urge comes.
I am also realizing I am using veto power as I am picking up the habit of recording my food. I am currently using an app on my phone My Fitness Pal to record what I am eating, so I can get healthier and lose weight. It keeps me more conscious of what I am putting in my mouth, gives me veto power over some things I’d like to eat that aren’t good for me and changing how I approach food. Since it is on my phone it’s a lot easier to keep track. I have lost 13 pounds since June 1!
What about you?
What do you say to yourself when you find yourself facing a habit you want to change? Exercise? Drinking more water? Making snide remarks? Eating sugar? After you have done it, do you beat yourself up? Use veto power for both the judging self-talk and changing the habit.
When you find yourself calling yourself a bad girl, veto it! When you realize you have judging thoughts, veto them!
Revisit when you are wanting to be exercising and catch yourself right before you tell yourself no you can’t, or no you don’t have time, or whatever is getting in the way and veto that thought.
Push through to the yes of exercise or the yes of eating healthy or the no of the sugar.
Start rewiring your brain today!
Nancy Booth is a certified life coach and certified brain-based coach. She loves creating safe spaces for women going through life’s transitions to discover and support their visions for health and well-being in an overwhelming world, explore possibilities for next steps and find hope. She writes about taming the overwhelm and reducing stress, looking for ways to motivate, energize and inspire you! You can sign up to receive her weekly blog or contact her to find out ways you can begin to shed overwhelm and stress. It’s time to explore possibilities of new relationships, better life pacing and gain hope and peace.