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Take a Break

Episode #349

Why It’s a Good Thing Water Is Boring

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Tuesday’s Episode

When all you want is a glass of wine, a cold beer, or a cocktail, water can feel boring.

No matter how you dress it up, it can leave you feeling resentful, disinterested, and wanting an alcoholic drink.

This week, learn why water is not the problem, and how to use a glass of water to reveal what is really driving your habit and relationship with drinking.

What You’ll Discover

The reason that being entertained by what you’re drinking is so important.

How to create a life that is more aligned with what naturally excites you.

The one problem that most people run into when trying to change habitual drinking patterns.

Featured on the show

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You are listening to the Take a Break podcast with Rachel Hart, Episode 349.

Whether you want to drink less or stop drinking, this podcast will help you change the habit from the inside out. We’re challenging conventional wisdom about why people drink and why it can be hard to resist temptation. No labels, no judgment, just practical tools to take control of your desire and stop worrying about your drinking. Now, here’s your host, Rachel Hart.

Alright, everybody, we are talking about water on this episode, but not in the way that you may expect. So, I know some of you out there love to drink water. I know a lot of you detest it. I’m not here to sell you on how amazing water is for your body, or how much better you’re going to feel when you cut back on alcohol and start properly hydrating yourself.

This episode is all about using a glass of water to reveal your mind, to reveal how the habit of drinking works. I always say you can’t change what you can’t see, and habits are the domain of your unconscious mind. Which means a lot of the things driving your desire are currently hidden from you, at least at first.

Our work is to really reveal what’s going on. When something about your drinking feels off, the tendency is to focus on the quantity and the frequency. How much, how often, am I drinking? That’s fine, but quantity and frequency don’t just happen. They’re driven by your thoughts and feelings. That’s what the think-feel-act cycle is all about.

It may feel like sometimes your drinking just happens. But that’s not the case. When we use a glass of water to reveal what’s going on, we get insight into what is driving the habit. So, here’s the thing, when you’re trying to change habitual drinking patterns, most people run into the same problem. You say no to a drink, you choose water, and then you’re left staring at your glass with a bit, or maybe, a lot of resentment. I often have a lot of resentment.

Someone inside Take a Break the other day was talking about having trouble finding a non-alcoholic substitute. They said something that I’m sure a lot of you can relate to. For the longest time, I definitely had this same sentiment. They said, “I’m just sitting there with a glass of water in my hand, and it’s so boring, right? The glass of water in my hand is boring.”

Now, I know some of you chemistry teachers out there would disagree; water is actually very weird and fascinating. You can go down a whole rabbit hole. Hot water freezes faster than cold water; no one knows why. It expands when it goes from a liquid to a solid. It defies a lot of the rules of chemistry.

But when you’re sitting there, stuck drinking plain old boring water, when all you want is a beer or glass of wine or a cocktail, water is just boring. Even if you dress it up with carbonation and lime, it still just feels really boring.

I’ve done this before on the podcast, we can talk about non-alcoholic alternatives, there are lots of them out there. We can talk about how to dress up water and make it more appealing. But I really want to focus on something deeper. Today, I want to talk about why you need to be entertained by what you’re drinking. I really want you to think about that question.

Why do you need to be entertained by what you’re drinking? By the way, feel free to replace ‘drinking’ with ‘eating’? Why do you need to be entertained by what you’re eating? Because if you really were entertained, it wouldn’t matter what you were putting in your mouth. You wouldn’t care.

But when you’re sitting there looking at this glass of water, thinking about how boring it is, you have the opportunity to understand why it is that you’re seeking to be entertained by it in the first place. That answer is going to help you so much when it comes to unraveling how the habit works.

So maybe, are you spending time with people that you don’t actually enjoy that much, but you feel obligated to see? Maybe it’s family or in-laws. Or maybe you’re at your partner’s work event, or you’re hanging out with the parents of your kid’s best friend. Maybe you’re telling yourself, “I have to be here. I don’t want to be here. I don’t really even like these people. But I don’t have a choice.” And so, you’re looking for entertainment, you’re looking for a way out.

Are you maybe with someone who you’re starting to realize you might not have that much in common when you remove alcohol from the situation. This can happen with friends; it can happen in romantic relationships. When you take away the alcohol, you might find yourself wondering, do we actually connect or is the only thing that we have in common drinking?

Are you doing something that you don’t actually want to be doing? I hear this from parents a lot. Maybe you’re watching shows at night that you don’t actually want to watch but it’s the only thing that the family could agree on. So, the show is not something that you find entertaining, so then you need the drink, you need the food, to entertain you.

Or maybe do just find being with yourself kind of boring. So many people struggle with spending time on their own without distraction. Notice that I said, “without distraction.” I know for a lot of you listening, the idea of spending time on your own, just you and your brain, you, and your thoughts, is pretty much the last thing that you want to do. You know what? The same used to be true for me too, and now I love it.

There’s a reason why you want to be entertained, and it has more to do than with the thought, “Well, I just really like to drink.” The reason you want to be entertained, what’s going on beneath the surface? There’s something deeper there.

Here’s the thing, if you like spending time with yourself and your thoughts, all the other issues I mentioned would be so much easier to handle. So, I talked about this way back in Episode 41; all about spending time alone. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to that episode, go back and listen to it.

But one of the things I talked about there was, there was a study where people were asked just to be with themselves, no distractions, for up to 15 minutes. Just sit there, just be alone, you and your thoughts. Afterwards, participants had to rate how difficult it was to be alone with just their thinking. Not only did most people find it difficult, but most people also reported 15 minutes alone with their thoughts to be unenjoyable.

So, when you spend time without any external entertainment, without the screen, or a drink, or food or something else… When you’re just left with your brain, what you’re going to see are all of its default thought patterns. All of the thoughts that it’s really good at thinking.

You’re going to find a lot of thoughts that you have a lot of practice thinking. Really fun thoughts, like, “I need to do more. I haven’t done enough. I’m not enough. I’m so behind. Things never let up.” The list of these kinds of default thought patterns goes on and on.

But here’s the thing with that study, it got even crazier. After that initial test, the same participants were connected to a device that would deliver an electric shock. Again, they were asked to spend up to 15 minutes alone with their thoughts. But this time, they had the option of shocking themselves. Now the participants got to test out the shock ahead of time, so everybody knew what it felt like.

After testing out the shock, they were asked if they would pay money not to feel that shock again. So, what happens? The researchers run the experiment again, same premise; you alone with no distractions for 15 minutes, just you and your brain, you, and your thoughts. But this time, you could shock yourself if you really want to do.

Now remember, everybody knew what it felt like. Many of them said they would pay money not to feel the shock again. Well, what happened? Of the people who said they would pay money not to feel the shock again, when they were left alone with their thoughts for 15 minutes, a 1/4 of women and 2/3 of men made the decision to shock themselves rather than to sit alone with their thoughts without any distraction.

Just this knowledge, that for so many of us it’s hard to just be alone with ourselves without any distractions. Not because something’s wrong with us, not because we’re broken, but because we have these repeated thought patterns that are just kind of running in a loop.

When we don’t realize how the think-feel-act cycle works, when we don’t realize that it’s not only habits that we can form around drinking, it’s habits that we can form around thinking, it makes a lot of sense why we don’t want to be alone. Why we’re always looking to be entertained.

So, when you’re sitting with a glass of water in your hand and thinking, “Oh, God, it’s so boring,” and wondering what the exciting non-alcoholic alternative is. Or wondering, “Hey, what else is going to entertain me?” what I want you to consider is that the water is trying to reveal something to you about what is really going on in your life. You’re searching for entertainment because you’re not having a good time. It’s important to just ask yourself why.

Now, I get it. Some of you may really feel stuck, or even scared, even going down this path. You might think, “Okay, so I asked myself why, and now I discovered I don’t really like where I am/what I’m doing/who I’m with. I don’t like being alone with my thoughts. Now what, Rachel?”

Here’s what I want to offer, you can continue the search for constant entertainment; drinking, eating, buying stuff, you don’t need endlessly scrolling. But the thing is, it’s never going to satisfy you. It’s never going to be enough. You can do that, or you can decide to make your life and your thoughts more interesting, more entertaining. That boring glass of water is an invitation for you to make your life better.

I know that when I say this, it can feel really intimidating. I had moments where I was like, “I’m sorry. I feel like this entire journey is asking me to rethink my life. And no, thank you, I will just keep drinking, even though I know it’s not working for me.” That’s how intimidating it felt.

But looking back now, I finally understand I wasn’t being asked to rethink everything about my entire life. Doing this work, changing my relationship with alcohol, was simply asking me to connect more fully with myself.

I discovered that when I stopped searching for constant entertainment, and dug beneath all of the thought patterns; that I wasn’t good enough, that I was behind, that I hadn’t done enough, that I wasn’t measuring up. Underneath all of that, there was a deeply interesting person there. Someone who I actually really wanted to get to know.

This is not just unique to me. You are a deeply interesting person, too. You see the world and make connections and have insights and experiences that no one else will ever have. I don’t believe that we’re given these amazing, powerful, incredible brains to check off to-do lists or figure out who’s prettiest or smartest or most successful in the room, and then see if we measure up.

We have these brains to explore our world and ourselves and wonder. Wonder at the majesty of all of it, and be in awe that things are just breathtaking and heartbreaking all at once. And, it’s amazing.

The search for entertainment is really a search to know yourself. That’s what the glass of water is trying to reveal.

Alright, that’s it for today. I will see you next week.


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