Are there times when cravings often get the best of you?
Or are your loved ones concerned that certain behaviors you have seem out of control?
Don’t get too down on yourself! This may be a sign that your brain’s reward system has been HIJACKED!
What is the brain’s reward system? It is an intricate network of brain systems and neurotransmitters that are critical to human survival. It drives us to seek out the things we need to stay alive and carry on the human race.
Additionally, the brain’s reward system will tell us to repeat things it finds pleasurable (even if they aren’t good for us), and is linked directly to the emotional memory centers that drive us to repeat “rewarding” behaviors. For example, think of how you feel when you smell freshly baked cookies. Even if you’re not hungry, your brain may urge you to eat one anyway!
While the reward system can be activated when listening to music, taking a warm bath, or looking at a beautiful painting, it can also be activated by many unhealthy things such as, alcohol, cigarettes, recreational drugs, gambling, electronics, sugar, junk food and chronic overeating.
After working with thousands of people with cravings, we know just how tough it can be to overcome them and take back self-control. However, we have seen it work over and over again and know that it is one of the most worthwhile things you can do in your life.
Here are three strategies to help you deal with your cravings:
You will be better able to exercise self-control and deal with your cravings if you live by the acronym H-A-L-T, which stands for:
- Don’t get too Hungry. Eat frequent, small, high-quality meals and take nutritional supplements to optimize your brain and balance your blood sugar. BrainMD Health’s Craving Control can help diminish the frequency and intensity of your cravings, allowing you to more effectively achieve better control over your behavior.
- Don’t get too Angry. Maintain control over your emotions and don’t let negative thinking patterns rule your life. Learn how to kill your ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts) so you can gain more control over your feelings and behavior.
- Don’t get too Lonely. Social skills and a positive social network are critical to maintaining freedom from cravings. Enlist a team of supporters and healthy role models.
- Don’t get too Tired. Make sleep a priority to boost brain function and improve judgment and self-control.
Physical exercise is a fantastic strategy to help you reduce cravings and increase self-control. Exercise helps in a number of ways, including:
- Boosting serotonin in your brain to help you get unstuck when you can’t stop thinking about pepperoni pizza, potato chips, beer, or checking your phone
- Increasing blood flow and dopamine in your brain which improves impulse control
- Reducing stress, improving your mood, and lowering your blood sugar levels
3. DISTRACT YOURSELF
Multiple research studies have demonstrated that cravings typically last for only 10 minutes. Recognize that and divert your mind: Call a friend, read a book, solve a crossword puzzle, work in your garden, take a bath, do chores around the house, listen to music, run an errand, meditate or exercise (see strategy #2).
Conquering your cravings will improve every aspect of your life, including your family life, your relationships, your career, and your school life.