Monday, February 27, 2012

"Don't Do the Dew" Challenge 3

First I wanted to explain something. I am not doing this with the point of having no soda whatsoever. I am trying to increase control over my own desires, so that I can have and do things I enjoy with reasonable moderation. I have no intention of living the life of a monk, drinking only water, waking up at the butt-crack of dawn and eating a bare minimum. But neither do I want to live the life of a glutton. I have noticed certain tendencies in myself leaning in the latter direction, and I wanted to curb those tendencies, so I can continue to live a healthy life. So I am still drinking Mountain Dew. But I am only drinking one can a day. To some that may seem excessive still, but, well, that's you. For me, one seems a reasonable goal.

The thing is, when I first started this, I didn't have a clear idea of limits. In general I wanted to carry the can around and not drink it, but I wasn't clear with myself how much I could drink. It was only clear that I wanted to drink less, and for the first few days, 1 seemed like a good number, so I allowed myself that simple indulgence. Having no strict limit seemed like something more of a challenge. That way, I knew that I could drink the can if I really wanted to, and I wouldn't be breaking any rules, per se. And that did make it harder. It became a battle between wanting another soda and increasing my capacity to resist. It really made me work those resistance muscles. But it also left the door open to be kind of a vague and purposeless exercise.

I held a pepsi in my hand a couple days ago. I thought to myself, it's not the same as Mountain Dew. I didn't really commit to resisting it. I'd really like to drink one. But then I thought about it further. What is it that I'm really doing? What is it to resist temptations, if there are no clear limits? There have been times in my life where I wanted to reduce the amount of limits I place on myself. After all, if I want to watch an extra hour of tv one day, I'd like to have the freedom to do so, once in a while. If every once in a while I want to have 2 sodas, it's not such a big deal. But what do I (and so many other people) do without those limits? If an extra hour, why not one more? If 2, why not 3? What's to stop 3 from becoming 4? At times, I would consider that it would be better merely to shift my focus. Instead of limits, I would work daily on my focus, meditating on a better way, telling myself that I really want healthy foods and orange juice. And it does help, to some extent. But without certain rules in place, I am only doing what I feel. Even with daily meditation, I am finding there is just no replacement for rigorous discipline.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"Don't Do the Dew" Challenge 2

I have been doing this Dew Challenge for the past two days, and I wanted to write down my initial thoughts.

First of all, I noticed right away a feeling of liberation. Some people might think that having the soda can in front of you all the time would merely serve to add unnecessary suffering to an already difficult exercise (that of curbing an "addiction"). Maybe for some that would be true. But for me it is a mental thing. Because I've decided not to drink the can of Mountain Dew, I now have motivation that I didn't have before when wanting to resist it. Had I simply said, I want to drink less, and tried not to think about it, it would have been harder for me.

Also, the point of the exercise is to use something relatively innocuous, like soda, to practice resisting urges. I need it to be difficult in order for it to be effective, but I probably would not recommend a similar exercise to someone with tendencies toward more destructive substances, unless they first proved to be capable with an easier challenge. As for achieving my own desired ends, Challenge itself provides the motivation I need to succeed with it.

So, back to the liberation. Obviously, one's feelings toward this challenge would be contingent upon their success with it. My first day was quite successful. I felt the urge to drink the soda many times in the day, and resisted every time. It gave me a sense of power and control over myself that is invigorating. I have realized that the benefit of this challenge is not only in the ability to say no to something you might want, but in the broader ability to decide for yourself and separate that decision from mere impulses. And isn't that what most of us want? We want to decide to exercise even when our momentary feelings say we don't really want to. We want to do things we normally wouldn't because of temporary emotions, and we want to avoid doing things we normally would do because of temporary impulses. This is not just about saying "no." It is about taking control, and I think it is exciting, even if the idea is a little silly on the surface.

The "Don't Do the Dew" Challenge 1

I recently heard about a study that showed that the power to resist temptation improves with practice. Previous to this I always figured that the best way to resist would be to avoid temptations. If your temptation is food, avoid the temptation to eat too much by not buying very mush, or whatever you can do to decrease exposure to such feelings. But listening to this I came up with an idea.

I like Mountain Dew, and I find that if I drink one, I typically feel the urge to drink another within a couple of hours (especially if I'm at home doing low key activities). Not only would I like to be strong enough to just say no to Mountain Dew when I feel the urge to drink one but don't think it's a very good idea, but I'd like that strength in other areas of life.

Now, the Dew is really a small temptation. I find I can deflect it in many cases, but it is strong enough that it creates for me just the right opportunity to test out this little study for myself. My test is what I am calling the "Don't do the Dew Challenge."

While going about my day, mostly at home or in the car on the way to the grocery store (You could do it in the office or a similar setting), I am keeping a can of Mountain Dew in front of me with the express purpose of resisting the urge to open and drink it. I will be constantly reminded of my desire for Mountain Dew by seeing it in front of me throughout the day, and this will give me practice in resisting temptation. The purpose is to increase my self control overall and see if the practice proves beneficial, not only in curbing my habit of doing the Dew, but also in resisting other temptations in life.