Curiosity Killed the Bad Habit

Presumably, curiosity killed the cat because it was snooping around where it didn’t belong.  The cat’s natural curiosity led it into dangerous, and ultimately fatal, territory. But what if by means of curiosity, instead of being a potentially deadly undertaking, was actually a life-giving and beneficial practice?

In the 4th most watched TED talk of 2016, A Simple Way to Break a Bad Habit, Dr. Judson Brewer, MD, PhD., an addiction psychiatrist, speaks to the benefits of bringing curiosity to a craving, addiction, or bad habit, in order to break it and create a new, healthier response to stress.

Do you eat when you are stressed, bored or lonely? Eat Right Now® is a Mindful Eating program available as a multifaceted platform to help participants change unhealthy behaviors regarding food. Bringing gentle curiosity to the experience of eating, or eating mindfully, helps you figure out the “Why” “What” and “How” of your own destructive eating patterns so you can change them.

According to Dr. Brewer, “Obesity and smoking are among the leading preventable causes of morbidity and mortality in the world.” And citing another study, “We are only aware of what we are doing about half of the time.” Paying attention, or being mindful, can very literally save your life.

Forcing or willing behavior to change is less effective than paying objective attention to it.  Have you ever willed yourself to lose 20 pounds and months later, gained it all back? This is because the pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain that is responsible for cognitive control, helps you remember that smoking or overeating, or eating certain things is bad for you. However, under stress, this is the first part of the brain to go off-line. So long willpower.

It’s natural, as humans to want to avoid, or turn away, from things that are unpleasant. When you want something to just go away, the bad feeling or disturbing thoughts, it’s our tendency to just want to shut them down by whatever means available – generally, that’s where the habits come in; the strategies you learned to help you feel better, more secure, loved. The counter-intuitive act of being curious about your behavior is the key to changing it because in doing so you are able to identify triggers for the behavior, the reward for the behavior; “what am I getting from this,” and the behavior or habit so that new more positive behaviors can be reinforced.

Eat Right Now® is a Mindful Eating program that helps keep you on track. Developed by Dr. Brewer the Eat Right Now® program, consists of a smart phone app, online community and support, and offline groups to help you foster your own curious awareness. The digital therapeutic delivers 30+ short video modules that build your skills one moment at a time. Take 10 minutes each day to learn a new lesson, and put it into practice throughout the day in manageable, bite-sized pieces.

Judson Brewer MD PhD is the Director of Research at the Center for Mindfulness and associate professor in medicine and psychiatry at UMass Medical School. A psychiatrist and internationally known expert in mindfulness training for addictions, Brewer has developed and tested novel mindfulness programs for addictions, including both in-person and app-based treatments. He has published numerous peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, spoken at international conferences, presented to the US President’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, been featured at TED, TEDMED, TEDx, Time magazine (top 100 new health discoveries of 2013), Forbes, Businessweek, NPR and the BBC among others. He writes a blog for The Huffington Post.

Studies have shown that group-based support helps change habits. Led by Cheryl Mills, a Qualified Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Teacher, the Mindful Eating group meets weekly in downtown Ogden, starting February 1. Each session provides hands on mindfulness practices, as well as expert and peer support as you go through the process of changing your relationship to eating. Class registration required. For more information and to register go to: Thursday, January 26th is Mindful Eating Day.

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