We’re all familiar with addiction. Look up ‘addicted’ on Google, and two definitions will come up.
The first says, ‘physically and mentally dependent on a particular substance, and unable to stop taking it without incurring adverse effects.’
Read that again, slowly, and take some time to think about it.
In my opinion, this definition is narrow and centers around a more recent connotation of the word. Focusing on modern relevancy, it misses the larger scope and the entire spectrum of human behavior.
The second definition of the word brings a much more encompassing and positive association. It reads, “Enthusiastically devoted to a particular thing or activity.”
By this definition, we can be “addicted” to any thing or activity. We can even be addicted to good things.
I love this definition because it gives us some credit. It gives us the ability to choose what we’re addicted to, and doesn’t have to necessarily be a bad thing. We can choose the things and activities we are enthusiastically devoted to.
This is something we all do. Things and activities are an inescapable part of human existence. Are we then, all addicted? Is that a bad thing? I think it varies among individuals, and the things and activities each chooses to devote their attention to, and the consequences that may or may not result.
We probably all have that one thing, maybe two, or twenty, that we wish we could stop doing. When we take this thing or activity out of our lives, it’s all we can think about. This is the negative approach to addiction. The removal has created a void that occupies our attention.
The positive approach is to put something in. If you want to stop doing a thing or activity, start a new thing or activity. This is not a new concept. Focusing on the positive is probably something you have heard your entire life.
Let’s apply this approach to human health. Take food for example. Maybe you want to stop eating sweets, or at least cut down your intake significantly. For a person who may be addicted to sweets, cutting them from their diet entirely may be a tall order. If the person is focused on quitting sweets, or staying away from sweets, what object are they thinking about? Sweets. When sweets are a constant thought on your mind it makes staying away from them a difficult task.
However, if we become solution oriented and take the positive approach, accomplishing this feat becomes much more realistic. Instead of quitting sweets, you can decide to start eating something better, like a raw fruit or vegetable. This way you don’t have to quit eating sweets, you just have to start eating something healthy.
You have now shifted your focus to healthy things. If you are focused on healthy things, your mind will not be focused on sweets. And once your body becomes accustomed to receiving actual nutrients from fruits and vegetables, sweets will fade further and further from your mind.
The most common cause of overeating is a lack of nutrients. The body is crying for the essential vitamins and minerals it needs to function properly. If we fill the body with food that is devoid of nutrients, it may fill our bellies, but does not fill the needs of the greater, highly complex system that is the human body and the body will continue to cry for more until the nutrient requirements are met.
Now lets talk about activities. Say you want to quit smoking. You wake up and decide today is the day. The day you will quit smoking. You sit down with a cup of coffee and think about how you would normally be having a cigarette. At 9:15, you note it would normally be time for a smoke break. After lunch you think about how you usually follow the meal with a cigarette. Something upsets you and you become more angry because you can’t have a cigarette. And after work on the way home you can’t take it anymore. You have thought about cigarettes all day and you go and buy a pack and light one up.
Why did this happen? What was the dominant object of thought? Cigarettes. When you are so focused on the object you wish you could leave behind, that object becomes a prevalent part of your reality.
When we take a positive approach, we are not ‘quitting smoking’. We are now focused on being healthy. What thing or activity could you add to your day? Maybe you can take up walking or running. Maybe you can join crossfit or a rec league. You can go to church or join a community organization. Maybe you can research a new approach to eating and give it a try. Maybe you can walk around the block or do 10 push-ups and sit-ups when you would normally have a smoke break.
You don’t have to quit smoking entirely, just start adding in these new activities. If your focus is on being healthy, these activities will eventually become your preference.
Your body wants to be healthy; our minds know it and our souls yearn for it. I think the key is first recognizing that a change needs to happen, and then to focus on how we want to be, not what we want to quit. We can be enthusiastically devoted to any thing or any activity. Which ones you choose are up to you.