Today we ask that you pay attention to addictive behaviors.

Though people tend to think of addictive behaviors in fairly narrow terms — the drug addict, the alcoholic, the gambling addict, and so on — addictive behaviors are extremely commonplace.  It is very likely that much of an average person’s behavior in any given day can be defined as “addictive.”

An addictive behavior can be defined as something you do mindlessly and impulsively, out of habit or craving, that delivers a temporary rush or high but inevitably winds up making you feel worse.  You tell yourself “I shouldn’t do this,” and yet you keep doing it.  There is some measure of guilt associated with the behavior.  At the same time, there is a feeling of helplessness.

So many people are addicted to sugar or caffeine or the internet or TV or video games.  They often have a sense that they are engaging in unhealthy behavior, but they feel quite helpless in the face of it.

And there are many more people who don’t understand that drinking caffeine or watching TV mindlessly for hours on end is unhealthy for them at all, since “everybody does it.”  People used to feel that way about smoking cigarettes and drinking excessively — “everybody does it.”

The first step in dealing with addictive behavior is correctly identifying behavior as addictive.

All addictive behaviors lower your state of well-being.  After the momentary rush or gratification, you feel worse.  Anxiety, irritability, depression, and fatigue are common indicators of the after-effects of addictive behaviors.  Addictive behaviors create an unstable mental and physical state.

So: addictive behaviors make you feel worse, and often they make you feel guilty.

Just being able to correctly identify behavior as addictive is an enormous step.  When you are conscious enough to wake up and say: “I am behaving like an addict right now,” you are more than halfway to healing and health.

So just start paying attention.  You do not have to change your behavior at first.  Just start paying attention to mindless, impulsive behavior.  Notice when you are anxious or irritable or depressed or exhausted, and look at the things you did that day, or the day before.  Pay attention.  Make connections between your general mental and physical state, and your recent behavior.  

When you get drunk, you often have a “hangover” the next day.  There are many kinds of “hangovers.”  An agitated mental state or depleted physical state is often a sign of an addictive “hangover.”

Once you get more alert, a natural desire will arise to lessen the addictive behaviors.  Whenever you do make a healthy choice for yourself, please let yourself feel very good about what you have done.  This will positively reinforce the healthy behavior and encourage you to keep doing it.

As a rule: it is good to engage in behaviors that create a lasting sense of peace and well-being in your mind and body.

It is not good to engage in behaviors that create a sense of agitation, disorder, and poor feeling in your mind and body.

Pay attention.  Pay attention.