To decrease unhealthy reactions, increase healthy reminders
Suppose we have some unhealthy habit such as impulsive overeating. Once some behavior becomes ingrained as a habit, we often do it without deliberating over it. If some food, even junk food, appears in front of us, we just grab and gulp it.
How can we regulate such unhealthy reactions? One way is by using our intelligence to create healthy reminders. Pertinently, the Bhagavad-gita (03.43) urges us to use our intelligence to discipline our default desires.
Between any stimulus and our response to it is the gap for our free will to operate. For our free will to choose wisely, our intelligence is meant to serve as a ready, reliable resource. If our intelligence were active or were activated, it would help us evaluate the stimulus before responding. But when we are gripped by unhealthy habits, our intelligence becomes dormant or lethargic. Even if it gets activated, it is too late – we have already succumbed to a default reaction.
Given that our intelligence won’t function fast enough once we encounter a tempting stimulus, what can we do? Use our intelligence before any encounter with sensory stimuli. How? By intelligently creating timely, thought-provoking reminders for ourselves. Such reminders can be quotes or insights that succinctly state points which trigger, inspire or empower us to evaluate our impulses. Those points could center on: what our deepest aspirations are, how we are different from our unhealthy reactions, and how giving in to those reactions deviates and degrades us.
We need to surround ourselves with such reminders, be they as stickies in places where we relapse or digital stickies on our devices or memorized nuggets that we can recall without much conscious effort. Such reminders will create a wedge between stimulus and reaction, catalyze our intelligence, and raise our self-awareness, thereby equipping us to make healthier choices.
Think it over:
- How can reminders help us in choosing wisely?
- What are the different kinds of reminders? Which reminders work best for you?
- Make three reminders that can help you regulate an unhealthy reaction.
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