PAVLOV : voluntary steemplicity : part 7 :
Most of our habits are conditioned responses.
One thing that used to complicate my life a lot was pill popping. Nothing serious, really, just over-the-counter solutions to any number of problems, and an addiction to supplements. I wasn't addicted to the supplements themselves, but what they represented. I was addicted to finding fast solutions, something that could be fixed with a pill rather than a change in behavior. And these habits were costing me time, money, and peace. To live simply, I needed to let them go. But letting go is usually a hard thing to do. It almost always requires a trick.
Today, let's look at Pavlov.
I learned something that helped me break this pill habit, and it also simplified my life in many other ways. It was how to use my mind to train my body.
Some people might call what I learned to do “conditioning,” in the Pavlovian sense. Around the turn of the last century, Dr. Ivan Pavlov was studying digestion in dogs when he noticed that the dogs would start salivating in anticipation of food. Pavlov began sounding a buzzer at the same time the food was served, and the dogs came to associate the sound of the buzzer with the food to such a degree that they would salivate at the sound of the buzzer, even if the food wasn't served to them. This salivating response to the mere sound of a buzzer became known as a conditioned reflex.
I have a similar story.
All my life I've been what you'd call “anal retentive,” especially when I'm stressed. As a result, I was often constipated. If I had lots going on, my body would clamped itself off and shut down. It got to the point that, in order to stay regular, I had to be pretty relaxed. But just telling myself to relax never worked. Needless to say, I wasn't very regular.
And I found that just sitting down to my computer and opening the solitaire app caused the muscles in my body to relax, even before I started the game. Often, before I finished the game, I would need to go to the bathroom – that's how relaxed I was! Solitaire worked better for me than any laxative.
If I become irregular these days, I know better than to pop a pill. And it still does me no good to just tell myself to relax, but I know what I can do. I can sit down, open my solitaire app, and literally feel my body release its tension. That's the power of mind and habit and conditioning.
Many people achieve a similar result from smoking cigarettes. If that's your way to relax, please know that you can train your body to respond to any number of triggers. The trigger doesn't need to be cigarettes, which are costly and smelly and bad for our health. The trigger can be as simple as a game of solitaire.
We can use Pavlovian conditioning countless ways to simplify our lives, but in my case, I used it to achieve a result without drugs, without spending money, without making an appointment, without buying or storing or plugging in a device. We can train ourselves, through the power of mind, to be more relaxed, or more productive, or more accepting. And we can train ourselves, through the power of mind, to live more simply.
(Please note that this is not shared as medical advice. Just my own experience.)