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Are you a little too comfortable?

By Michelle May, M.D.

What direction do you wish to go?A friend asked me why people stay stuck, doing the same thing over and over, even when it causes pain. That’s a good question. Perhaps you have a habit or two that you haven’t been able to change despite the obvious problems they’ve caused for you.

I’ve previously written about how mindfulness helps us become aware of the underlying thoughts and feelings that keep us stuck in certain patterns. Another common reason people get stuck in painful patterns is comfort. While that may seem contradictory, the pain of the familiar is often preferable to the discomfort of the unfamiliar.

There are many proven strategies for overcoming the inertia of the familiar that we’ve incorporated into our books and mindful eating programs. Perhaps one or two of these strategies will help you get unstuck too!

How to overcome the inertia of the familiar:

  • Start with acceptance: You may have the mistaken belief that if you just hate yourself enough the way you are or vehemently reject your current situation, you will be motivated to change it. But resisting “what is” is a waste of energy that keeps you focused on what you don’t want.
  • Practice present moment awareness: You can’t change the past or the future; you can only decide what you’ll do right now. Pause to take a deep breath and notice your physical sensations, thoughts, and feelings. What do you need right now?
  • Baby steps: What is the smallest step you can take right now in the direction you wish to go? One hundred small steps that you are willing to take will be far more successful than that giant leap you think you should take, but won’t.
  • Rewire your brain: Our brains have a natural tendency to focus on our mistakes. We can replace this “mistake focused wiring” with “new behavior wiring” by mindfully acknowledging every new behavior we use.
  • Don’t miss the lesson: Every mistake brings you one step closer to being an expert in what works and what doesn’t.

Where are you stuck? What small step will you take to overcome the inertia of the familiar?


About the author

Michelle May, M.D. is a recovered yo-yo dieter and the founder of the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs and Training. She is the award-winning author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: A Mindful Eating Program to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle , winner of seven publishing awards. She is also the author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Binge Eating, and Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating for Bariatric Surgery. Michelle shares her compelling message and constructive keynotes with audiences around the country, offers workplace wellness programs, and has trained and licensed hundreds of health professionals to facilitate Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs worldwide. She has been featured on Dr. Oz, the Discovery Health Channel, and Oprah Radio, and quoted in Diabetic Living, Fitness, Health, Huffington Post, Parents, Self, USA Weekend, US News & World Report, WebMD and many others. Her personal success story was published in Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul. Michelle cherishes her relationships with her husband, Owen and grown children, Tyler and Elyse. She regularly enjoys practicing yoga and hiking near her home in Phoenix, Arizona. She and Owen, a professional chef, share a passion for gourmet and healthful cooking, wine tasting, photography, and traveling.

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