Thursday, August 18, 2011

Feelings as habits.

I remember reading something, or watching something, or in some other way learning something from somewhere (perhaps various somewheres; I am obviously vague on details here), about how feelings, and the chemicals your brain produces because of these feelings, can be addictive. Basically, the more you feel a certain way and then continue to feel a certain way, the more your brain and body get used to the chemicals being produced by those feelings, and wants to produce more of them.

I'm a big proponent of the awareness that you can choose how you want to respond to something, even choose how you want to feel about it, and make that happen. It's a pretty cool awareness thing once you get some practice at it. But what if your brain is so used to you feeling a certain way that once you no longer need to, your brain isn't sure what to do with that?

Let's say you're habitually angry due to stressful or unfair work conditions, and then you get a fabulous new job in a fabulous new place and everything is fabulous... but you're still angry, about nothing in particular, just because that's what you're used to feeling? Or you are habitually depressed, sad, or bored, and then you do a lot of work on personal growth and suddenly feel very good about yourself with plenty of things to do that you enjoy... but if there's the slightest trigger, you're right back into being depressed, sad or bored again, just because that's where your feelings, your mood, your brain, are used to going?

Of course, I also fully believe that both choice and your brain's chemical dependency on itself can work together. Once you realize that you do have the choice, that you do not have to feel any way you don't want to feel just because you do feel that way right now, you can retrain yourself -- your thought habits, your "default mode" as I've heard clients describe it -- to switch gears and feel something you'd rather be feeling. And then guess what happens: over time, you get used to feeling that way, your brain gets used to the new combination of chemicals it's producing, and you have a new "default mode."

So basically, you can teach yourself the habit of happy. How cool is that?

(And, hey, you know something that life, personal growth and empowerment coaches are good for? Helping you gain awareness of your habits, decide what you'd rather be doing instead, and get yourself there. For more information about coaching, you can visit my website, Life Spiraling Forward, and/or Like me on facebook. Because really, empowering yourself to choose who and how you want to be, is pretty awesome.)