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What Is Buffering and Are You Doing It?

Hint: I bet you’re doing it.

The Oxford Dictionary defines buffering as, “lessen or moderate the impact of (something). 

So how are we typically buffering? When we feel negative feelings and we take actions to “lessen the impact” or buffer the feelings we are having. Usually these buffering actions end up bringing us more negative feelings and results. It can work like compound interest but with more negativity instead of more money and it becomes a vicious cycle.

Here is an example:

I’m not happy at work. I spend my day thinking about how I don’t like my boss, the tedious tasks I have to do, and how long my work day is. By the time I get home, I am exhausted; not from sitting in my office doing tasks but from the draining thoughts I ran on repeat in my head all day. 

So I’m home feeling drained, down, and flat out tired. I decide that I deserve to blow off steam with a glass or bottle of wine and camp out on the sofa in front of the tv. 

I wake up the next day feeling lousy and go into work. I spend my day thinking, why did I do that? I feel awful and… I don’t like my boss, the tedious tasks I have to do, and how long my work day is…

Things we commonly do to buffer other negative feelings are:

  • Eat 
  • Work
  • Scroll social media
  • Watch TV
  • Drink alcohol
  • Check our cell phone constantly
  • Complain or gossip
  • Use drugs
  • Plastic surgeries or procedures

These things are not “bad” or “negative” necessarily, it’s only when we “over” do them or do them to feel better, to buffer other negative feelings.

When you indulge in these techniques you immediately feel better and it’s usually not until later that you feel the negative effect from the buffering activities where they simply pile onto the original negative feelings anyway. 

Another example of buffering.

You spent the day alone and sad so you decided to eat chocolate cake. It felt pretty good in the moment. Surely better than the loneliness and self-pity you were feeling. Until the euphoria from the indulgence wears off and now you start beating yourself up for breaking your diet, not keeping your word to yourself. The loneliness is still there, of course, but now you have created more negativity than you ever had by adding on the cake drama.

 So what do we do?

Firstly, if you learn to recognize when you are buffering while in the moment you’re ninety percent there already. Noticing that you are craving foods when you are not hungry allows you to dig into the feeling you may be trying to cover up. 

If you realize you feel bored or lonely, you simply call it out. I’m not hungry, I’m bored. Then you sit in the feeling of being bored and realize its okay. It’s not that bad, being bored. 

You sit there until the feeling ebbs or you feel the boredom shift into neutral. You simply sit there observing your thoughts, maybe you think – being bored is okay, being bored is relaxing. Maybe you feel okay here, maybe you feel yourself relax.  Based on these feelings you can consciously choose not to eat.

Now don’t get me wrong. You have trained your brain to do these things because you get an actual dopamine reward for doing them and the more you do, the more you need to do. 

I know it’s not easy to retrain your brain. But if you practice this, you will get better and it will get easier.

After reading this I bet you can identify ways you are buffering emotions in your life. We want to stop buffering because we just pile up the negative emotions creating more of them not less. Just sit and feel the emotions when you can, trust me they’re just feelings they will pass.

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