Why is it so hard to make healthy choices all the time?
You might know someone who smokes or eats a lot of processed or harmful foods, and maybe they might say they know it's bad and they really want to kick the habit but they can't seem to make the change. And on the sidelines we stand and judge, with our own 'harmless habits', the ones we have deemed less dangerous and more acceptable. It's perfectly rational to question why in this 'day and age' with access to so much information do 'they' (we) engage in behaviours or lifestyles that are harmful, damaging and ultimately leading to illness and unhappiness. But do we really have a right to judge another for their lifestyle choices and do we really know what making change really entails?
If we are honest with ourselves, we are all battling with our own demons; big or small I am sure we can all name at least one thing we do or potentially 'turn to' for comfort or a little pick me up. We aren't talking about a healthy consciously made choice to enjoy a bar of chocolate or a glass of your favourite wine. What I'm talking about here is when we can't stop ourselves from giving in to the craving or doing something even though we know it's not in our best interests. As someone who has had a daily battle with sugar cravings, the mechanics of this really interests me: why isn’t knowledge alone power enough for us to make change and what's the missing piece?
This last week I have been working on some core beliefs, ideas that underpin and shape how I respond to events in my life. I made what may seem like small decisions but they turned out to be decisions that had big and unexpected consequences. In going through this process, I've really seen the transformational power the inner work does for us, the impacts it has on lifestyle, and I now know for certain that knowledge alone is not enough to change our addictions or habitual patterns; the change has to come from somewhere else.
So let's take me as an example: I am fully aware and know categorically that refined sugar is poison for my body. The fact that it stimulates the same reward centres in the brain as heroin and cocaine should be more than enough for me to leave this demon behind and make healthier choices with ease. Yet even with that information lurking just out of sight, there is a behavioural and emotional loop, (most likely created in early childhood) that usurps logic and data. If we really want to be effective in changing habits or behaviours, we have to go deeper than the level of the mind. It's essential to identify and look at the unconscious beliefs and how they manifest as behaviours (actions which are cleverly masquerading as reasoning and excuses and justification). However the real transformation comes when we connect with, feel and release the underlying emotions stored in our body. It's not enough to know mentally and from an analytical or psychological perspective, the key here is making the shift from your emotional body and sticking with whatever process that brings up for you. Once we honour our deepest emotions and allow them to be heard, fully felt and accepted, only then are we able to use the mind effectively enough to achieve our goals.
This last ten days I've cut down my refined sugar intake down to almost zero, which in itself isn't really that much to shout about - we can all make 'crash decisions'. What is headline news for me is that I haven't struggled or battled with myself to do it, it's just not been on my radar at all. Reflecting on this dramatic shift, it was so clear that this came about not because suddenly I knew sugar was more 'bad for me'; but finally I released some unacknowledged emotional stuff that was dormant in my body.
We are all unique and individual creations, the culmination of our childhood conditioning, a time when each of us learns which scenarios and experiences brought us the thing we emotionally craved – i.e. joy, love or safety. We learned unconsciously how to get our emotional fix (or we were given it) from the outside and we took this into adult life, unaware that not only our thought patterns but our emotional template is directing and shaping our life quietly in the background. And of course alongside this we have our ancestral and collectively inherited consciousness to consider so it's no wonder we are all finding it so very challenging to live wholly, healthily and happily.
The journey to inner peace and balance is truly is a long one and there will be highs and lows no matter what. The honest truth is there are no short cuts and there are many different routes to take and a lot of winding paths. If we do choose to take the journey, and really want to progress and transform then we will most likely be faced with endless layers to work through. If we can learn to become masters at what I would really call mindful awareness of the body, emotions and of the entire psyche including body and spirit, we have the foundation to make our biggest advances towards wholeness and free ourselves from the insanity of an inner world that is reflected in the outer. Along the way, an essential and much needed by product of our own personal struggle, we realise just how much effort, courage and resilience is required to make long lasting changes so our capacity for compassion grows. This last week has reinforced again the power of connecting with the emotional energetic body and I have a renewed understanding and compassion especially for those are still in the dark with their lifestyle choices and yet to make the emotional journey back to the pain body and into their power.