Traditionally, we think of addictions as applying to drugs including alcohol and tobacco. These days, the term addiction is being increasingly applied to a broad range of behaviours. We hear about gambling addiction, sex addiction, porn addiction, Internet addiction, smart phone addiction, busyness addiction, gaming, sugar addiction and so on. In fact, if we are honest, most of us would have to admit to having an addiction of one kind or another. When we do this we can be a little less judgemental of other people’s addictions. You can find some interesting contemporary articles about addictions at the following links:
When we are caught in an addiction, we found ourselves repeating a behaviour despite knowing it is bad for us. When our efforts to control this behaviour repeatedly fails we know that we are addicted. The reward pathways in the brain have been hijacked. The behaviour becomes compulsive. When you open a packet of Tim Tams to eat one, only to eat the whole packet that evening, you know you have an addiction. It is in this setting that we can apply the mindful technique of Urge Surfing.
Many of our more subtle habitual behaviours have an addictive quality to them. Once a behaviour has been learned, the easiest thing for the brain to do is to put it on automatic pilot and simply repeat it. When everything is going smoothly on automatic pilot, it feels good and comfortable. In that sense we all like the familiar. Many of us get irritable when asked to do a favourite activity differently. That is especially so if we are feeling stressed. Sometimes these automatic pilot behaviours are just thoughts. We can have the same destructive thought patterns over and over again. The article, Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thought Habits can be helpful with this.
When we have addictions, we often have lots of habits built around the addiction. Think of smokers! They have multiple smoking habits. These include having a smoke first thing in the morning, after meals, immediately after any form of stress. As well as dealing with the urges to indulge the addiction by using Urge Surfing, we have to also address multiple habits built around the addiction.
Mindful habit change is one of the special areas covered in the advanced mindfulness courses with Dr Walsh and in the upcoming retreat on July 22 at the beautiful Abbotsford Convent. He is also including a section on this the book that he is currently writing.