Hard addictions such as alcohol, drugs, gambling, are few in number but soft addictions can be endless. Like hard addictions they also can deplete our mind, bodies and wealth, though much more slowly, mostly they deplete our aliveness, keeping us comfortably numb.
Hard addictions such as alcohol, drugs, gambling, are few in number but soft addictions can be endless. Normally there are help lines and agencies set up to assist people overcoming hard addictions. Those are the type of addictions that can rapidly deplete your body, mind and wealth, often with fatal consequence. It is usually hard to deny you have a hard addiction.
However most of us can fall prey to soft addictions, and we often deny we have them. These also can deplete our mind, bodies and wealth, though much more slowly, mostly they deplete our aliveness, keeping us comfortably numb. We call them our habits, treats, comforts, being moderate, a little bit of what you fancy.
But often, these legal, more social acceptably habits can be hard to moderate, and end up becoming a lot of what we fancy, and what’s more, everyone else seems to be doing it. We share common jokes about how we planned to watch one episode of Breaking Bad, and end up watching the whole box set in one night. The next morning, when we oversleep and need half a dozen cups of coffee to get through the next day at work, we warn ourselves to not do that again. But we inevitably do.
Doing something that harms ourselves in some way, regretting it later, promising ourselves not to do it again, and then doing again. And maybe again and again. Is that not a simple definition of an addictive behavior? And couldn’t it apply to dozens of things in your own life?
On its own perhaps one addiction can be manageable, but many of us, may have several. A few soft addictions can wreck havoc on your well being, as can a bunch of less severe ones.
If you read this list maybe you can identify some of your own.
Fizzy or energy drinks
Eating sugary foods
Puzzles, Candy Crush, Suduko etc
TV – Channel hopping Netflix
Shopping, online or in person
Surfing the internet
Pinterest, Instagram, facebook, twitter and other social media
Dieting Weight obsessing
Of course the list is far from complete, you can have a soft addiction to anything, even stamp collecting, if you get too obsessive about it, spend too much time and money on it, and it feels like it has become a problem.
Most of these read like a list of every day activities in modern society, and none of them in its self is necessarily harmful. But it’s the amount of time and money and energy we can waste on these activities at the expense of activities that really make us happy on a deeper level.
Most of the listed activities are lazy ways to consume happiness. Something outside us creates the buzz for us, in the form entertainment or stimulation. Industry knows the power of soft addiction and is happy to fill the gap for us, with new ‘shocking celebrity weight loss’ or scandal stories, with photos of course. Or even the ‘I married my son’s best friend’ type of magazine gossip. New great TV programmes, new great games, new great triple death by chocolate magnum ice cream!
The message we receive from industry though the media, apparently 1000’s of a day, is, buy, get, consume, want, desire, have, more, more, more.
Even if we don’t consider ourselves big money spenders, most of us have developed the habit of consuming what others have created for us. And I believe this is partly responsible for that empty, meaningless, unsatisfied feelings that many of us have sometimes about ourselves.
Most people resolutions are related to their soft addictions. Get off sugar, coffee, TV, shop less etc. However it might helpful first to focus on what it is we really do want. Most of us know we that finding the perfect new dress isn’t going to satisfy our soul. But what will.
Although we are all so different, some common human needs are things are:
To be of use, value, service to others
To love others and be loved
To have meaningful connections
To be part of something bigger than ourselves
To know God or the Universe or Divinity and be closer to that
To be healthy
To feel alive
To share joy and laughter
To learn and grow
To create beauty
To be creative
If you compare these two lists, the first one pales in comparison. The second list calls to our soul, the first list calls to our habits. And when we overindulge in them, I think deep down we feel a sadness or a guilt, because we know we are selling ourselves short. Even the time we spend mentally obsessing about our bodies or worrying about money, is time wasted, time which could be spend appreciating our bodies and creating our futures.
Think about what physical and mental activities create real satisfaction in your life. You could go cold Turkey and try living without internet for a day, a week, a month, to really kick start a new life. Or you could introduce small changes to your routine, like talking a walk in the park on the way home, instead of walking through the mall and buying a coffee and reading a celebrity gossip magazine.
Take up a new hobby, one which helps you to create, connect to others, feel more alive. And if you don’t know what hobbies or activities you like, which don’t involve a screen, try some out. There are thousands of free groups advertising on meet up, or check the posters in your local library. There are knitting groups, reading groups, hiking groups, book-binding groups, save the earth groups.
Or instead of logging onto facebook every night, pick up the phone, or arrange to meet a friend, or write a good old fashioned letter. You probably already know what your habits want you to do, and what your inner self really wants to do!
There is a world out there waiting for you. And for the small price of extracting yourselves from your favourite chair, the rewards can be infinite.
Article inspired by Judith Wright’s book Taming Soft Addictions
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