The Science Behind Addiction And How You Can Kick It

Mark Twain said that quitting an addiction to tobacco was easy; he had done it often. But what is an addiction? According to Psychology Today, an accepted definition for an addiction is: ‘a condition that results when a person ingests a substance or engages in an activity that can be pleasurable but the continued use/act of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities.’

We intuitively know what an addiction is; when a behaviour becomes an addiction is more problematic. Is someone watching television for eight hours a day an addiction? Do two cigarettes a day constitute an addiction? Is gambling £10 a day an addiction?

Quite what causes a treat to lapse into an addiction is open to debate. Addictions such as smoking and drug abuse will arise as some form of biological alteration, where the brain and body decides that it likes a certain chemical and wants more. When an attractive and pleasurable behaviour occurs in the animal brain the neurotransmitter dopamine is released into the system, but the brain can grow to desire more, and the initial hit is not enough – combine that with cues around us such as availability and advertising, and the hit becomes irresistible.

Other addictions may be generated by one’s life situation or state of mind. Behaviours such as polishing off pints of alcohol, placing £100 on Arsenal to win, and purchasing wigs do not seem rational or even comparable, but each may counteract a feeling of emotional stress. That stress might be counteracted by one behaviour, or many; a highly-addictive personality might swap between an uncontrollable need for alcohol or drugs, simply because they must quell the needy parts of their behaviour.

This substitution method at least gives an option for the person desperate to kick a habit. Smokers worldwide, for example, have tried many methods of breaking their addiction such as gums and nicotine patches, with varying results. E-cigarettes however not only recreate the addictive chemical element of nicotine, but also the physical actions of lifting a tool to the mouth and drawing.

It is perhaps no surprise then that sales of patches and gum fell by 3% last year, dropping for the first time since 2008. Meanwhile vaping device sales grew by 75%, thanks to the efforts of scientifically astute companies such as EL-Science, creating an alternative to traditional smoking that’s fun, funky and a viable alternative to smoking.

According to journalist Johann Hari, who has researched drug addiction across the globe, a combination of cues and an unhappy, deprived lifestyle can often be the impetus behind an addiction. His theory, revealed in the Huffington Post, was partially based on experiments on rats that had developed an addiction to drugged water before being placed in more pleasant conditions and subsequently kicking their habits.

Combine that with worldwide evidence that seems to suggest placing people in recuperative, replenishing and pleasant environments to conquer their demons, as opposed to punishing them, and the likelihood of success is higher. Much like prisoners, removing negative cues and giving a sufferer a desire to achieve, and more than anything, human connections, seems to work.

Using Sex As A Simple Stress Relief Technique

While sex can be the last thing on your mind when you’re highly stressed, it may be exactly what your body needs. Stress builds up tension and a great way to get rid of it is having a quickie – or two. Preferably a quickie with a happy ending!

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Why a quickie instead of a long seductive session, you ask? Well for one, stress lowers the libido, so you probably won’t feel like going at it for too long. Secondly, all you really need to do is reach orgasm and share some body contact – this encourages the body to release positive endorphins which will help you to cope better with stress in the long-term. Finally, having a quickie when you’re stressed will actually help to improve your libido, leading to longer love making sessions and generally a better sex life.

There’s been a fair few studies on stress and sex and interestingly partnered sex is far more effective than solo masturbation. It might be the physical connection we experience with another person, or sharing mutual satisfaction with your partner during times of turmoil. It might even have something to do with the fact that both partners get some stress relief. This can make your environment less stressful as well as make your body feel better.

There’s also evidence that regular sex makes us more resilient to stress when it arises by basically acting liking a buffer when things start to go off track. You see, instead of blood pressure rising significantly in stressful situations, people who have sex more often are said to have a lowered heart rate in similar situations.

Apparently it doesn’t only effect blood pressure, but can also have a positive impact on cortisol levels. This makes sense because cortisol is also known as the stress hormone and is secreted when adrenaline arises. It’s function helps to control blood pressure and our immune system among other things.

When stress arises cortisol release can have a positive effect on memory function, pain sensitivity and gives us that kick when our body needs to get into fight or flight mode. Long-term release can be really harmful, however. It can negatively affect cognition, thyroid function, blood sugar levels, our bones and muscles, give us high blood pressure and lower our immune systems. Therefore, when stress levels remain high over prolonged periods of time it has a derivative effect on our overall health – everything begins to suffer.

Using sex specifically as a stress reliever can reduce the impact this has on our bodies. It’s also a great way to keep your body working efficiently and your household functioning better. Plus, it’s far safer than tablets, pills and potions and way more enjoyable than a trip to the GP or therapist! Try it next time stress begins to impose on your life and feel the benefits it brings to you both in the short and long-term.

Image via Mens Health

Understanding Addiction

Are you unable to put down your smart phone? Maybe over eating or drinking is your problem? Perhaps you’re indulging in too many prescription pills? Whether someone is overcoming an illegal or legal addiction is irrelevant. Most addictive behaviours can be treated similarly and have a similar pattern and path. Once these are understood, it is much easier to overcome any type of addiction.

Addiction in it’s most basic form, is excessive behaviour. The difference between regular behaviour and an addiction, is that regular behaviour can be ceased without distress and can be absent from ones life, without causing a significant impact.

In today’s society we have many behaviours than can easily lead to addictions. The following scenario depicts an addictive behaviour, associated with mobile phone use.

You hear the tone of your phone go off during a funeral. Instead of switching it off or declining the call; you choose to pick it up and start a conversation. You therefore need to answer your phone, regardless of your physical situation. In this instance, you may have an addictive behaviour attached to the use of your mobile phone.

Why this person felt inclined to answer the call, could have been, for one of two reasons. Either they did it automatically and neglected to notice their surroundings or they felt an overwhelming compulsion to answer it. In the later, they may have needed to answer the call to relieve distress or considerable discomfort they felt, when the phone rang.

This would have occurred through conditioning. Behavioural Psychologists such as Pavolv and Skinner, did extensive research into how behaviours were learned, maintained and extinguished. This has been exceptionally helpful in the field of addiction.

According to behavioural psychologists, the first step toward changing behaviour, is recognising it. For example; alcoholism can’t be treated without the drinker being aware they have a problem. So if you or someone you know has a problem that goes unnoticed; the behaviour isn’t likely to change.

Once the behaviour is recognised as being excessive, measures can be taken to correct it. In most cases this will involve acknowledging and understanding triggers which lead to the behaviour. Triggers are those things in life which prompt a behaviour. Using the scenario above; the ring tone would be considered the trigger and answering the phone, the conditioned behaviour.

Once a behaviour is learned and has been maintained, it can be difficult to extinguish. Maintenance usually occurs so the person can avoid the negative consequences of avoiding the behaviour. For example, alcoholics and drug abusers maintain their addiction, by knowing they need to ingest their desired substance, to avoid withdrawal.

Avoiding negative consequences can be a powerful maintenance tool. Once this is overcome, the process of extinguishing can commence. This involves avoiding the behaviour and reprogramming the conditioning process. With the mobile phone scenario, an example of reconditioning could involve ignoring the ring tone so it diminishes the conditioned behaviour. It may cause the person considerable discomfort to initially ignore the tone, but after a time, it would become much easier.

To alter the behaviour to answer the phone only when appropriate; the tone should be changed and the behaviour of only answering at specific times, would be practised. This would encourage a less addictive behaviour. Similar practices are done with food intake, such as eating only at the table or designating food free zones, such as the lounge room, where people often snack on unhealthy foods.

In theory, overcoming addictions is quite simple. However, emotions complicates the process. If you view an excessive behaviour as a conditioned, rather than emotional behaviour, your chance of overcoming it will be increased.

By Kim Chartres

Can Changing Your Diet Stop Anxiety?

While food has amazing properties to fight disease, release happy endorphins and adrenaline, does it also have the ability to fight off anxiety? A diet that is filled with too many Omega-6 fatty acids has the ability to increase inflammation in the brain, and as a result can significantly affect the way we feel.

If particular meals can make the body and mind feel worse, there has to be some that can make it feel better. Here are some tips for fighting off anxiety with what we put into our body.


Specifically chamomile and green tea are great at relaxing someone who is stressed out, or suffers from anxiety. Green tea is high in antioxidants and an amino acid called L-theanine. This helps to promote alpha waves in the brain and has a calming effect. Chamomile tea has been traditionally linked to soothing a sore stomach, and is also proven to decrease mild anxiety. If chamomile tea isn’t for you, try adding it to a warm bath when you feel overwhelmed.


Choline is a part of the Vitamin B family, which helps to prevent memory loss, reduce sleeping problems, and helps those who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks. Foods which are rich in choline can include eggs, beef, cauliflower, fish and peanut butter. Try to incorporate these into your diet, since low levels of choline can lead to increased anxiety. Supplements are also a great option, although first check your recommended dose before taking them.


Fish oils are fantastic for the heart, but can also work with reducing anxiety and also Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Omega-3 is found most popular in fish such as tuna, salmon and cod, which ideally should be eaten three times a week for good health. If fish isn’t something you enjoy or can’t eat for dietary reasons, you can also get Omega-3 from nuts and flax seed, or even daily supplements.

Complex carbohydrates

These types of foods increase the level of serotonin, a calming neurotransmitter in the brain, which directly controls the central nervous system. Complex carbohydrates include foods such as wholemeal bread, pasta and potatoes. They take longer to digest, and work wonders for your blood sugar levels.

Are there any foods you would recommend which could help to reduce anxiety?

Image via exposenewsnetwork.com/sites/default/files/media/Benjamin%20Branchaud/ 2013/08/Anxiety.jpg

By Felicia Sapountzis


How To Say No (Without The Guilt)

Sometimes saying ‘no’ can often make one feel guilty about their decision, but there is a respectful way to get your point across. This is a common scenario that we have all experienced, where at times being nice to others is at the expense of ourselves. The right way to say ‘no’ is easier said than done, but explaining your situation, being truthful about your intentions and properly communicating with people can make the situation more smoother to deal with.

Be respectful

There is a correct way to say ‘no’ although it comes down to respecting the other person and their decision. It’s probably best not to cancel plans or say no at the last minute, after you’ve already made a decision because you’ve got cold feet. This behaviour is not only unreliable but isn’t in good taste either.

Don’t feel guilty

There’s only one worse thing than saying no, and that is saying yes without wanting to take part in what the other person has proposed. The best option is to be honest, and respectfully make your point be heard. Be firm about your decision, and don’t sit on the fence with your point of view. If you’re dealing with someone face to face, make sure you are firm with the tone of your voice and maintain eye contact.

Requires an explanation?

There is a debate whether saying no to someone or in a certain situation even requires an explanation. This is all based on context, and what exactly the situation requires of you. If the scenario is about lending money, be truthful and explain how this isn’t a financially viable option for you at the moment. Avoid white lies since they could catch up with you in the future.

Think it through

Take a moment and think through if this particular decision is right for you. It doesn’t hurt to think it over, and prepare what you’re going to say ahead of time. Sometimes keeping it short and sweet is the best way say no. Rambling and long explanations will feel like you are trying to convince yourself, rather than the other person.

Image via transformleaders.tv

By Felicia Sapountzis

4 Attitudes Which Are A Major Turn Off

Surely we have all encountered some interesting personalities through work, school and family life, some of which we love and others that are difficult to be around. Not everyone is the same, but try to surround yourself with people that make you feel good about yourself. If a sudden change in behaviour is evident, rather than jumping ship, have a chat to your friend and see what is really behind a change in personality.

We’ve compiled a list of  common personality killers which can really be a turn off:

Negative Nancy

Although it’s difficult to find the positive out of a bad situation, does it mean that it’s okay to be constantly negative? For those who believe in positive affirmations, this is definitely a step in the wrong direction. If you or somebody you surround yourself with is constantly picking at the negatives, try to remind them that good things are always around the corner. Every situation can’t always be bad, so try to remind yourself that the positives always outweigh the negatives.

Mr Moody

A moody personality is difficult to befriend because it’s hard to determine how they will react to anything or anyone. They may be going through a difficult time in their life, hormonal or just cranky in nature. Either way, not an attractive quality in a friend or partner.

The Overconfident One

There is probably a fine line where confidence is desirable in one’s personality, and when it’s simply unbearable. If their only interest is being popular and well liked, their intention won’t involve getting to know you. This attitude may change over time, but just be weary that overconfident people can also act very narcissistic.

Mademoiselle Patronising

We all love a bit of comedic and harmless banter between friends, in relationships and amongst family, but patronising another person is really stepping over the mark. A condescending comment is not only insincere but if you are at the receiving end could be quite hurtful to hear. Some people have boundaries, and be careful not to cross them with patronising or scornful comments at the expense of amusing yourself.

Image via The Daily Meal

By Felicia Sapountzis

How To Be More Productive

Putting things off can lead to unnecessary amounts of stress due to easily being distracted from the bigger picture. The secret to being more productive is simply getting yourself organised. Often people are afraid of starting something because they are confused about what is required of them, and how much time and effort is needed to get the job done. Read on for some tips on how to be more productive at any time in your life.

Be organised

It can often be difficult for anyone to be organised all the time, but one tip is to delegate a particular timeframe for getting something finished. If you aren’t good at remembering dates or appointments, a diary is a helpful way to quickly write down whatever is on for the day, week or month ahead. Another great way is to use a cork board and place it in an area which you will constantly pass throughout the day. Then simply add or remove things as you get them done.

Decrease the use of social media

Watching one show or using one particular application on your phone is a never-ending battle that you will never win, (unless of course you have spectacular self control). If you’re running low on time, don’t put off tasks that you could be doing at the present moment. This will leave you feeling helpless and stressed out because you’ve left things at the last minute. Social media will always be there when you get back, and being productive in the long run will be more important than what status update someone posted to Facebook.

Plan it out

Writing short plans on what is required from each job will allow you to delegate realistic time and resources to getting it done. When the end is in sight, it’s easier to get started.

Change your surroundings

Too much noise or interruptions can be irritating if you’ve got a deadline on your hands, so try to move to a quiet place if your work can go with you. This will allow you to focus on getting more quality work done, rather than being increasingly angry that people won’t let you work in peace and quiet.

What helps you to become more productive?

Image via productiveflourishing.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Productivity.jpg

By Felicia Sapountzis

5 Ways to Improve Your Self-Esteem

Most people, even celebrities, have self esteem issues. Did you know that Victoria Beckham once said that when she was in the Spice Girls, she felt like the audience showed up to see the other women—not her. Actress Emma Thompson has talked about a negative inner voice that criticises her for not being good enough.

So if celebrities have self esteem problems, what hope do us mere mortals have? Plenty, it turns out. There’s a lot you can do to improve your self esteem.

1. Accentuate the positive

No one is perfect, and who would want to be anyway? That’s boring. But you undoubtedly have plenty of positive qualities. Focus on them instead of miring yourself in negative talk. If a voice inside your head starts to say: “Get rid of that mirror. You look awful,” shush it and search out positive features in the mirror.

2. Pretend

In many instances, acting confident and like you have high self esteem when you don’t really feel confident inside works wonders—and gets you to actually feel confident! Here’s how it works. Say you’re going to a work party function at the boss’s house. You’re scared witless because you’re shy, awkward and a clumsy dresser. Guess what? Pretend you’re cool and smooth and suave—because you most likely are somewhere deep down inside. If you act confident at the party, people will naturally gravitate toward you, and that in turn makes you feel better.

3. Do something you do well

Participate in activities that give you a sense of accomplishment and belonging. They can be as simple as buying gifts for children in poverty or walking every day or volunteering at a soup kitchen. You’ll see what a difference you’re capable of making—and are making. Make fun time for yourself too. Take classes in areas that have always interested you.

4. No comparing

Comparing yourself to other people will only bring you grief, not to mention it is impractical. You are not in these people’s shoes, and they very likely have self esteem problems too under that facade. Remember the celebrities example? You are you, a unique, amazing individual. The fact is, only you know your life experiences. If you pass a gorgeous woman on the street and are tempted to compare yourself to her, shut off thoughts about her. Focus on you—your positives. Your smarts, your physical features, all the wonderful things in your life.

5. Identify and solve

What are your nagging issues? Weight? Shyness? Communication? Be reactive no longer. Take charge of the issue and of your life. Find proper motivation. Internal motivation often is not enough; you probably need external motivation too. Look to the future and keep a list handy of how resolving this issue will help your life. Take communication for example. You could write: “After taking communications classes, I will approach people more easily and be responsible for less misunderstandings.” Keep goals concrete and realistic.

Going to a therapist is an option. It may be difficult at the beginning, but this person will be your advocate and ally. She will help you figure out a plan to address this issue that impacts your self esteem so severely. So many people go to therapy. It is by no means a mark of failure. It is often one of the best things people do for themselves.


4 Ways to Keep Calm and Stress Less this Silly Season

Beyond the wonderful traditions of ham and family time, Christmas can also be an incredibly stressful period; over-spending, visiting relatives you haven’t seen all year and sheer panic can be as common as Christmas pudding. So rather than giving yourself a beautifully wrapped freak-out this year, here are some essential tips to help you keep your cool over the silly season.

Get a list
Come Christmas, I often end up with lists of lists, and although pedantic it’s certainly helpful. Keeping a checklist of everything that needs to be done can immensely help to calm a mind chaotic with things to do. Taking note of anything along the lines of gifts, cooking, and commitments can help keep you calm and on-track.

Start early
Getting on top of what needs to be done, even before the silly season starts, helps to avoid playing catch-up later. Getting Christmas cleaning, cards and the odd gift early means there’s less of the last-minute panic that results in your sister getting gifts from a petrol station. Covering things like Secret Santa presents or stocking up on wrapping paper and sticky tape can save you from a last-minute panic. I find it easiest to have a spot designated to ribbon, wrapping paper and cards as well as a few handy boxes of chocolates so even if you’re caught short, there’s something on hand to save on stress.

Share the load
With Nigella and the Great British Bakeoff making it look so simple, it’s easy to think we can all hand-weave baskets for our freshly-baked shortbread. In reality, between work, Christmas parties and having a life it’s super unlikely that this will happen. So rather than stressing yourself out trying to be the organic version of Delia Smith, maybe just crack on with what needs to be done without the frantic ‘flourishes’ that can so often turn Christmas into a crafty nightmare.

Even better, rope in friends and family to help out. Having people pitch in with the cooking or gift buying can remove a whole lot of angst. So share the load; after all, part of Christmas is bringing people together, and if that means handballing this year’s pudding purchases – so be it.

Accept that nothing is perfect
Yes, Aunt Dora might sit in silent fury over the way Aunt Nora eats her peas or your mother-in-law might get roaring drunk and fall asleep in the gravy, but there are always things that cannot be controlled. Rather than getting wound up, recognising that things will not always run smoothly (and sometimes go completely off the rails) is part and parcel of the holiday experience. The more you let go of the anxiety to make things perfect, the more likely they’ll go smoothly. So relax, enjoy the few days off to spend with people you care about, and eat something delicious. It’s Christmas after all.

Kate H Jones is a lifestyle and pop culture writer at Clavicle Capitalism.

How To Have A Life Aside Work and Study

I’ve recently started a job which requires me to work three full days. But of course considering Sydney’s layout and traffic it ends up consuming a 7am-7pm frame. On my two other days in the week I am at university (studying full time), frantically trying to catch up on missed lectures, tutorial homework, assignments…

So I’ve had to come to terms with it – life is busy. But apparently life just keeps on getting busier which made me start to get a little upset. I can already  see how I have less and less time for friends, those random coffee catch-ups and everyday things I love. I can’t always go out to dinner or see friends on weeknights as sometimes I get home late, have work to do or am frankly just too buggered. The weeknights have never been so important to me and I finally see how working hard, playing hard is the way to do it.

But I don’t want to be waiting around for the weekend all the time to enjoy myself and see friends and have time to do the things I really love. So I’ve come to a few conclusions on how to improve my work life balance, and love my life everyday…even those days that start at 6am and end at 10.30pm!

1. Let your work become your lifestyle
If you hate your job, I’m sorry to say but you are probably going to start hating on your life. I’m not saying everyday has to be the most exciting, but it’s important to feel positive and see the value in working so hard throughout the week. Your job should be a reflection of your purpose and passions in life.

2. Organise fun activities and social things throughout the week
It can be hard but sometimes that dinner with your partner or a good friend in the middle of the week is just what you need to balance work and play.

3. Make the most of your mornings
For my partner, it’s about physical activity whether it be running or surfing before work. For me it’s stimulating my creative mind however I want in the ways of blogging, reading or storming through Pinterest and listening to music on my way to work.

4. Use your lunch breaks wisely
Invite your work colleagues to the local park for lunch and a chat – you’ll almost always learn something new about your job or business and rapport is so important in improving the quality of your job.

5. Vary up your routines
Whether it be what you eat or drink in the morning, how you get to work, what you wear, or your work hours – change things up! Make life exciting in the little things everyday. For me I try to wear something bright and different everyday, vary my makeup for a different look and take different routes to work (yesterday I took the ferry home and got to enjoy a sunset harbour view – what a treat!).

6. Maximise your weekends
I’m always up early on Saturday morning. I tend to start my weekend with some Pilates, followed by family time, then heading over to the beaches for anything ranging from hiking to a swim, to just hanging with friends.

7. Always be positive and optimistic
Don’t whinge and weep. If you’re not happy about a job or a lifestyle – change it. You are in control of your life and you only live once so do it well.

Make your job or studies be a part of your lifestyle. Everything has pros and cons to it but it’s up to you to choose which you focus on. Take charge and live the life you want, everyday.

How do you balance work and life?

Adriana Paczyski blogs about travelling, photography and life at Golden Hour Girl.