Chocolates, shakes, golden retrievers, squat thrusts. These aren’t exactly things that harm you much. However, the human brain is a mysterious lump of meat, and under rare circumstances the mind can become hooked on all sorts of things that are usually completely innocent or even commendable.
Today’s subject is one I’ve been wanting to touch on for a while, but haven’t because, well, procrastination. What can I say? I blame it on something new every day (sigh).
But in all honesty, I’ve waited to talk about it until I felt like I really had a few solid ways to counteract it. And now, after some self-reflection and light reading on the psychology behind addiction, I think I have a few pointers to offer on the topic.
At a meeting a month ago, I found myself in a group of people discussing their smartphone addictions. I’m addicted, too, I told them. I’m addicted to reading. A confused silence fell, and they looked at me as if I’d crawled out from under some 19th-century ghost town.
“Oh,” said one of them after a moment, trying to be kind. “That’s so sweet.”
It’s not sweet, I told them. It’s ruining my life. The other night, I was halfway through a book at 11pm when my mum entered the room. In a cunning imitation of a normal person, I put down my book (When the bough breaks, by Johnathan Kellerman, if you must know), she turned out the light, and we went to sleep. Except I didn’t. I lay there for a while, then snuck out of bed, felt around for my book, and tiptoed into the living room. I turned on the light, lay on the couch, and read till I finished the chapter. The smartphone group looked startled. “An actual book?” one of them said. “That’s all you were doing?”
Yes. And sometimes it is a book I’ve read before. I do this very often, I explained. And that’s not all. If I fall asleep reading (which is rare), and therefore don’t finish the book, I’ll read it the next day. Sometimes I delay my work to read– for hours. Only the last page releases me from the compulsion. Until, a few days later, it starts again.
At this point, the group seemed anxious. I could see what they were thinking. Isn’t reading simply a Good Thing: like exercise, or healthy veggies? How can books – proper, paper-paged books – be bad? I could see, in fact, that they didn’t really believe me. It couldn’t be that books were bad, it must be that I was either crazy (I could see their point), or engaged in some weird, fake-humble ego trip. If only that were true.
Before we go any further, let me say this: I’m not a reading snob. I’m just as likely to be reading a paranormal vampire romance as I will read a classic. I read anything and everything. I love reading things on a person’s tee-shirts too…
Just over a year ago, I realised that reading had swallowed my life. Unlike the kinds of addictions the smartphone group were discussing – tweeting, posting – you can’t read and talk, or read and exercise, or read and watch TV, or read and do your job (however badly). The bottom line is, you can’t read and live. Or at least, I couldn’t.
Reading was my fix. What is yours??
I struggle with addiction, and I found there is one simple way to leave it-
Trick your mind
This is a tip I picked while reading (seems like I can’t avoid it) about addiction online. Some psychologists suggest the answer to stopping doing things, is to actually make yourself believe you do not enjoy doing whatever that task is. If you tell yourself enough times you don’t enjoy doing something, subconsciously your brain will start to believe you. Simple enough, no?
My personal takeaway is, challenge yourself not to do the task for just 1 day, tell yourself 1 day is all you have to do. When I applied this to my life, I realized that by the time 1 day was up, it actually wasn’t near as difficult as I thought it’d be and I kept going.
What do you think? Can I beat our mind at its own game? Interested to hear about your experiences on this front!
-Nithi : )