There is a period, the time of which is different for everyone, where a gap exists between knowing better and doing better. It is when you have taken the step of becoming self-aware of what habits are no longer serving you, or are hindering you from enjoying your life, however you find yourself continuing to fall into the same unhealthy patterns nonetheless.
This gap between knowing better but failing to do better is in part due to our homeostatic impulse. The homeostatic impulse regulates physiological functions from breathing to body temperature. When you try to push yourself out of the familiar patterns you’ve grown accustom to, you face resistance from your mind and body. The mind likes the familiar, even if it makes you miserable. This impulse helped keep our ancestors alive, but today it helps to keep us stuck.
You make active choices during only a small percent of our day, letting your subconscious run the show the rest of the time. When experiencing times of distress, it is even harder for us to make conscious choices, our brains turn to autopilot. We fall back on the things we’ve done in the past, which were often easy but unsustainable short term fixes, instead of consciously choosing habits that leave us feeling good in the long term.
When this gap between knowing better and doing better arises, you may fall into negativity. Often judging and shaming yourself for failing to choose the healthier option. Don’t judge yourself if you fall back into unhealthy coping mechanisms. Judgement and shame are never the answer.
Our tendency to fall back into what’s familiar, even if it’s not what’s best for us is why it’s imperative to make healthy coping habits part of your daily routine. Don’t solely keep healthy habits in your back pocket for when life gets hard. Practice them and strengthen them. This will reinforce the positive consequences of their use. The more practice you have, the more familiar these habits will become. The more familiar the healthy habit, especially when times get rough, the more likely you will turn to it instead of a destructive habit.
It's important to keep in mind that what “healthy” means is different for everyone. For some people working out is a great stress reliever, others excessively exercise and use it to distract themselves from their emotions. For some people turning to food for comfort causes addictive behavior, for others a couple cookies helps improve their day.
Living a balanced life is a goal many of us are after but there is no one size fits all approach. Determining what works best for you takes time, work, and honesty. What actually leaves you feeling your best? What helps you cope with stressors? What leaves you feeling great about yourself?
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