When trying to live a more intentional life and stripping away mindless consumerism, mindless consumption of media, mindless eating. What activities will add to our lives instead of subtracting? Are we “switching off” to cope with life instead of living intentionally?
A large number of people use shopping, watching TV or eating as a day to day crutch or band-aid. Tired from a long day? We watch an entire season of a new show without moving. Stressed from work? We go all out on a pint of ice cream or a bag of tortilla chips. General doom and gloom? We hit the shops for some retail therapy. Mostly these self-soothing mechanisms are tried and true. But do they really work? In the end, are we left back where we started, or maybe worse off if we have sabotaged goals we had in place?
Long-term habits and lifestyle over perfection.
It can be hard to analyze our own coping strategies, especially if anxiety and negative thinking make an appearance in our lives. It can feel a whole lot easier to just not think about what is impacting us and space out. I watched two great documentaries, one about hoarding and the other about alcoholism. Both of these are just the extreme version of seemingly coping mechanisms, spun totally out of control. The people afflicted have lost the ability to handle stress in any other way. Some could even pinpoint what could be the root cause of their issue or that they needed therapy to work through historical issues but had no means to do so. This doesn't mean it’s like this for everyone who has extreme hoarding tendencies or alcoholism. A similar problem is those who constantly overeat, with shows like My 600-pound life showing us another stress mechanism gone extreme. When the seemingly only comfort or self-soothing is to eat in unhealthily large amounts; past the point of normal satiety. This is all done just to feel good, but it can form a vicious cycle of negative emotions.
When we have made a goal to eat more healthfully, we are doing ourselves a disservice by using junk food as a treat after a bad day. When we have made a goal to be more intentional with our purchases and reduce the things we own, we are sabotaging ourselves by using shopping as a reward. If our goal is to start a business, write more, build closer relationships with our family and friends or volunteer, we are disrupting our plans to achieve these things. As with all things in life, moderation is key. And when we moderate these activities let’s do it mindfully.
When we do want to eat something delicious, how about limiting it to a serving, say a few squares of chocolate and taking our time eating it and enjoying, don't distract yourself with emails or eat it while driving your car. Sit down and have a moment to savour and relax. If it’s shopping, then spend time researching what you intend to buy, consider if you really need it or if you need a quick hit how about buying something for charity? Groceries to donate to a food bank, or toys to a shelter. And with media lets put a limit on how much we consume, and when. If you find yourself scrolling through suggestions on Instagram and see hours swim past acknowledge what you’re doing. If you are watching something that doesn't interest you just because it’s there, set it aside. These are habits like anything else, and if we want to, we can change into whatever serves us best.