Dr. Richie Davidson has to be the most fun and popular neuroscientist today. He shares compelling scientific data that is full of good news about how easy and fun it can be to begin a new healthy habit. Based on a plethora of sound science, he insists we refrain from stopping unwanted behaviors. Don’t try to STOP anything! We get more of what we focus on, so when we make our focus to stop yelling at our kids, for example, we bring more focus to yelling at our kids. We end up making ourselves more anxious about the need to stop yelling at our kids, and before we know it, we are yelling at our kids!
Here’s what I’d like us to do instead: START – (the focus now is on starting something healthy, NOT stopping something unhealthy), so START a new, healthy behavior, JUST ONE, something along the lines of taking care of ourselves better. We’re too stressed to stop any unhealthy behaviors right now anyway. Don’t even think about what you wish you could stop doing. Simply START a behavior that helps us to de-stress. Choose below from several examples of de-stressing behaviors proven by science to lower heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol.
1. Adjust your car seat for just-right comfort before you start driving and while driving, notice the car seat physically supporting you;
2. Listen to soothing music;
3. Drink more water (put the juice of a fresh lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit in it with a little Stevia if you need to);
4. Pick an earlier time to turn off gadgets for more space in the evening that is technology-free (daydream instead; hear the sounds around you);
5. Walk the dog around one more block than usual;
6. Notice progress, the little ways you feel better from noticing physical support from whatever you’re sitting in, walking the dog longer, drinking more water (which means you’re drinking less caffeine and sugar; caffeine and sugar are stimulants that agitate the nervous system and support the stress response);
7. Say “no” to just one thing a day that you know you don’t really want or need to do anyway (“No;” is a complete sentence);
8. Listen more (you wouldn’t believe how much less stressed our brain and body are when we aren’t talking);
9. Notice when something just isn’t worth repeating. If we start noticing how we feel talking too much in general or talking too much about what has passed, we will start to notice that we are causing ourselves harm. We keep things alive way beyond the time they happened (breathe in through your nose instead; envision the details of a future free of talking about the past).
10. Eat at least one food a day that you know came directly from the earth. Something in its natural form that was grown under the sun, nurtured by the rain, and plucked by someone tending to a farm or an orchard.
Here’s how the brain works: Once we focus on STARTING something healthy, and we do just a little of that each day, over 21-28 days, we will find ourselves gravitating to that something healthy more easily and more often, especially when we make a point to notice how much better we feel when we’re doing that something healthy. New neural pathways strengthen for this new habit, and soon enough, we naturally lose our draw to what isn’t as healthy. You end up stopping something that you didn’t even try to stop.