Activities that start out as soothing practices can harm us if we let them take over. If you are reading this article, than you are probably not addicted to a chemical substance. But behavioral addictions, those things we do out of habit and comfort, can be just as deadly as more obvious dependencies.

Subtle Poisons

Many of the things people take into their bodies are surprisingly toxic and addictive. Sugar, processed food, caffeine, and fried food all poison the digestive system. They also trigger the release of feel-good chemicals in the brain and start off a chain reaction of dependency.

Eventually we think we need more of the toxic food substance to feel good, even though it is the very thing that is making us feel awful. If you find yourself feeling like you need something sweet when you are not actually hungry, or slamming cups of coffee just to start your day, you may have chained yourself to a substance that is actually controlling you.

Killing Us Slowly

The other main categories of non-drug addictions are behavioral. Sometimes called soft addictions, these are the things we do that might be harmless or even healthy at the proper times in appropriate doses, but are harmful when done in excess or habitually.

Soft addictions include eating too much of an otherwise healthy food, spending hours looking at social media pages, incessantly checking your email or surfing the internet, overworking, oversleeping, driving too fast, procrastinating, shopping, and gossiping.

With most of these habits the problem is not with the activity itself, but with how it perpetuates mindlessness and steals time and energy. When we do anything habitually without awareness it can drain our life force. These habits are often a way of soothing ourselves by covering up some kind of emotional pain or dissatisfaction with an activity that seems pleasurable.

What makes these addictions dangerous is that we use them to keep us from dealing with our feelings. They are a way of numbing out and hiding from life. They pull us out of the present moment. Ultimately, they can block us from living our purposes and fulfilling our missions in life.

Releasing Soft Addictions

Because they are so available, legal, and comforting, soft addictions can be some of the hardest to break. But it is possible to set yourself free with patience and perseverance.

There are a few different approaches to releasing addiction, and you may have to try a couple before you find the one that works for you. What is most important is that you stay kind with yourself through the whole process, even if you find yourself knee-deep in almond butter or staring at a social media site for hours.

~ Mindfulness

The more I learn about health, the more I realize mindfulness is the key to pretty much any type of transformation. It is so easy to fall asleep and let our habits run us over. Truly releasing an addiction is not usually something you do once and then never have to think about again. Rather it is a process of moment-to-moment awareness, compassionately checking yourself again and again to ensure that you are present, aware, and making healthy choices.

~ Cold Turkey or Easy Does It

You will need to discover your strategy for letting the addiction go. Some people are more successful with the all at once method, where they completely cut the trigger out of their lives. This can work well for some things like processed sugar, but is harder if you tend to overeat something otherwise healthy like nuts, or need to use social media for your business.

Some situations call for a more gradual method, where you commit to having less of your comfort foods or setting a timer for your trigger habits.

~ Alternative Self Care

In many cases, the addiction is a way of putting a bandage on a deeper need, rather than addressing our true feelings. If we can discover what we actually need and listen to that need, we can reclaim our power from the addiction and move closer to being healthy.

Ask yourself what you really need each time you are about engage in one of your addictive behaviors. Do your best to satisfy that need, whether it is for company and connection (internet surfing) nourishing activities (overeating) or doing something meaningful with your life (procrastinating, over shopping, and gossiping).

Get Support

Sometimes we need help to let go of our habits. If you are not making headway on your own, find a group of people with the same struggle, or work with a counselor, therapist, or life coach to help you address the real causes of your addictions and develop strategies for transformation.

We can all be free. We all have the capacity to live an empowered, purposeful life. But we need to have all of our life force available. If you have gotten stuck in numbing yourself with a behavioral addiction, you owe it to yourself to find your way out. It is perfectly okay to enjoy lifes pleasures in moderation, just be certain you are aware and making conscious, healthy choices.