Can you change your response to triggers in your environment?

You can consider the number of times you’ve felt anxious, nervous, aroused, or fearful for no apparent reason, but just by looking a sight or smelling a smell, or even thinking about a future scenario in your mind. It is the flow of chemicals inside your mind, triggered by your thoughts, that then govern your mood and mindset for the rest of the day. And it seems like these thoughts are simply on auto-pilot.

Thought proceeds thought until we get stuck. And in being stuck we feel anger, frustration, sadness or disappointment. But is it a question of changing our environment, thereby avoiding fear and anxiety altogether? Or is it a question of changing our own mindset internally? Or both?

Let’s look at addiction for a moment.

What’s the best way to quit smoking? Should we remove all traces of cigarettes from our sight, or should we change our own mindset about smoking?

A research paper from 2006, by the Cancer Control Research Institute tested the effectiveness of two methods commonly used to help people drop the habit. Cold turkey and gradual decrease.

Guess who won? People that quit cold turkey were more likely to continue being non-smokers. So once we make up our minds, we simply quit? Seems too good to be true, but 48% of past quitters, said that they quit cold turkey as well. They just gave it up – and just like that, they never relapsed.

So our minds do have a certain capacity to change our reactions.

Well then, will we be happier if we change our environment? Will I be able to quit smoking if I don’t see cigarettes around me anymore?

Well, the effects of your surroundings on the amount of self-reported happiness doesn’t have a direct correlation with another factor apart from the satisfaction of essential needs. I.e. poorer countries report being happier than those in richer countries, as well as countries with uniform religious beliefs (Norway) report being happier than others.

Looking at corporations, Google initially rolled out their 80-20 plan for their employees to allow them to relax for 20% of their time, and come up with something creative and new – that they’ve always wanted to follow in their spare time.

One would assume that this type of environment would be conducive to relaxed productivity, but Google ended up shutting it down. It didn’t work out for them.

Lazy people would still remain lazy, regardless of the parameters of their environment. And hence change driven by the environment, may not have a significant impact on long term behaviour change.

Hence, avoiding your environment, to not becoming tempted, is probably not the answer. However, changing your own mindset about the problem at hand could help out immensely.

But how exactly do I quit my addiction and lead a happier life?

You’ve got it. You’ve already understood that smoking is bad, and that you have the desire of leading a happier life. There’s nothing else needed. You’re only waiting for the feeling to be just right, or the environment to be better, to do something about it. Which is like waiting at the riverside to catch a fish, but waiting for when you feel like catching that fish.

It makes no sense. Nobody is stopping you, but you yourself. And in this you start a dialogue with yourself which never ends, creating a duality in the mind that is singular. And so, if you could only try trusting yourself to make the right decisions, quitting cold turkey would be the easy.

But of course, how do you convince yourself to do something that you really want to do? – Seems like an odd question to an outside observer.

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