I’m not going to tell you about the clever little button on a remote that has two vertical lines and stops a television show mid-sentence. We all know about that pause.
Rather, I am going to spend this post talking about the BIG pause, the pause that makes a habit transformation take place. This pause doesn’t have a remote control – it comes from your own mind. And it doesn’t freeze a sentence; rather, it freezes an action.
But to understand this BIG pause, we have to go to the beginning, to the basic understanding of habit change. A habit is developed over time by repetition and positive reinforcement. When we have a negative emotion, boredom, or exhaustion, for instance, we may reach for food or a cigarette as comfort and relief of that ‘ailment.’ Well, it works. While we are munching or puffing away, our minds are distracted from whatever state we were originally experiencing.
The positive feedback loop is set in motion.
The next time we experience that uncomfortable state, we turn back to food. Our minds and bodies knows it will offer relief. We know it works, and fast! Well, time and time again, if we keep turning to food, we establish a neural network that instinctively has us reaching for this ‘escape’ at the first sign of discomfort.
A habit has formed.
And to break the habit, we have to break the feedback loop. We have to press ‘pause.’
The next time we are in a state of discomfort, and our minds think ‘let’s get relief in a cookie,’ we have to pause and consider if that escape is really the choice we want to make. Is that the best solution? Is that the only solution? Is that solution in line with our values?
We have to sit in the discomfort of stopping a habit partway into its flow, and decide to just let the discomfort be. We can find a healthy alternative to manage the discomfort – reading, petting a dog, writing, perhaps (*cough* *cough*).
And only through repeating this all-powerful pause, can a new habit take shape, a habit healthier for our well-being.
So excuse me while I hit ‘pause.’