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What is buffering, and why do we do it?

We humans have a self-soothing behavior called “buffering”. This is what we do when we use a distraction to change our emotional state. We do it when we want to smother uncomfortable feelings that we don’t like, or to artificially create pleasant feelings that are missing from our lives.

The distraction is “the buffer”. It can be food, alcohol, drugs, Netflix, shopping, gaming, porn, compulsive cleaning, or a hundred other things. Whatever we use as our preferred buffer may vary from person to person, but they all have one thing in common: We buffer because we want to change the way we feel.

Here’s an example from my own life. I was a lifelong night-snacker. No matter how much I’d just eaten for dinner, I’d be rummaging in the fridge or the pantry 2 hours later. I wasn’t even remotely hungry, but I couldn’t stop myself from eating. I was actively trying to lose weight, but I sabotaged my progress every night for more than 30 years. I could hear my own voice in my head yelling “What do you think you’re doing?” But every time I tried to resist, I became anxious and restless. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, and I didn’t know what to do about it.

My weight-loss coach flipped the switch in my brain when she said, “If you’re looking for food when you’re not hungry, then food isn’t what you’re looking for.” I realized what I was really looking for: stress relief, a reward for surviving another exhausing day at work, entertainment and companionship. I didn’t have any other tools in my tool-belt, so I was using food to smother my emotions.

This is classic buffering, and it was a huge insight for me. You see, food didn’t actually relieve my stress, frustration, loneliness, or boredom. It only distracted me from those feelings for a few minutes. The next day, the stress and frustration would slowly start to build up again, and the cycle would repeat itself.

So I found a better solution: playing virtual reality games. This fulfilled my emotional needs better than food ever could. It was an instant cure for stress, loneliness, and boredom. I’d play for 30 minutes after dinner and feel like I just had a vacation. It shifted my mindset almost instantly. It reintroduced something that had been missing from my life for years: FUN. In only 3 days, I broke a 30-year habit of night-snacking. Suddenly I began looking forward to what game I would get to play that night, instead of what I’d get to eat. The weight started dropping off, and I never missed the snacks.

So if you’re buffering and you want to stop, it comes down to figuring out what you’re really looking for. What uncomfortable emotion are you trying to distract yourself from, or what feeling are you trying to artificially create? Then figure out a more effective way to achieve that by addressing the cause of the problem instead of distracting yourself from it.

You can read more about my story and what techniques you can use to stop buffering by downloading the free PDF from my home page at If you need more targeted help overcoming your buffering habit, book a free consult so I can help you come up with an effective action-plan that fits with your life and your needs.

Thanks for reading! Please share if you found this helpful.

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