How to get rid of bad habits? Replace them with good habits!

About: making small changes to daily behaviours

We humans actually have three types of brains:

  1. The reptilian brain or brain stem is involved with primitive drives related to thirst, hunger, sexuality, and territoriality, as well as habits and procedural memory.
  2. The old mammal brain is the center of our motivation, emotions, and memory, including behaviour such as parenting.
  3. The new mammal brain or neocortex enables language, abstraction, reasoning, and planning. This what makes us unique although there are other animals that have this capability.

Whole brain functioning


Habits we have acquired without thinking about them anymore. Such as driving, but also bad habits such as eating chocolate croissants for breakfast or smoking. Habits are largely performed by our reptilian brain. So when we are driving and at the same time in a conversation with a friend, we may find that we have driven somewhere with no memory of how we did it — that’s because the reptilian brain was doing most of the driving.

Unconsciously a particular smell, can trigger a complex emotion for reasons that our conscious mind cannot understand. That occurs because the old mammalian brain has processed the smell, retrieved a memory related to the smell, and triggered the emotion relevant to that experience. When our new mammal brain becomes conscious of the smell and the memory that we understand our emotion. So, emotions are triggered by the reptilian and old mammal brain and then we become aware of them.

We know we should not eat chocolate croissants for breakfast or smoke, but we still do it. That is because these behaviors have become habits. Our consciousness tells us it is not a good thing to do, but it is hard to stop these behaviors.

This is your new breakfast every day

What is required is to reprogram the reptilian brain, changing the habits into other habits. For example when we do a so-called diet, such as drinking only fruit juice for a couple of weeks we will actually loose weight. But the original habit is not changed. This is what explains the so-called Jo Jo effect. After loosing the weight, people will go back to eating chocolate croissants for breakfast because the habit (or program) in the reptilian brain has not been changed and is still there.

So what is needed is to offer a breakfast alternative that is as enjoyable as eating chocolate croissants for taste and for the body providing sugars. E.g. by eating blueberries and nuts and seeds and prunes or other fruits every morning for breakfast. You can add lemon juice and honey. Don’t take cruesli as an alternative, although Bircher muesli is also a good alternative.

The other important thing is to add regularity. So, to have a very good breakfast based on natural sugars and fibers every day at 8:00. Then, to have a very minimal lunch because you have already had a good breakfast. And then a very healthy dinner with a lot of fibers. Just some fish or chicken and vegetables, beans or lentils. In this very simple way you reprogram your reptilian brain and by making it very nice to smell and taste you will also reprogram your old mammal brain.

Keep in mind not all fibers are the same, whole wheat grains, lentils, barley, berries, chickpeas are very healthy because they need to be digested by the gut. That is the other thing. Fibers by themselves are not so healthy. It’s that digesting process in the gut by microbes and enzymes that produces short-chain fatty acids. Because these keep your gastrointestinal health in order. Also called your second brain.

Your new dinner every day consists mainly of vegetables (steamed, cooked, grilled)

Conscious memory and naming occur in the mammal brains, whereas procedural activities, such as playing a musical instrument, occur in the reptilian brain. Our mammal brains govern our behavior, inhibiting the primitive drives from our reptilian brain when they are not socially appropriate. Given that there have been 10 million years of evolution developing our neocortex, why does it seem to fail so often in normal individuals? Why do we so often hear about politicians and celebrities acting on their primitive drives and urges and committing horrendous acts?

The answer is one that any small child can give you: We all can make a choice, a choice as to whether we are going to give in to the primitive urges and desires of our reptilian brain or, instead, use our neocortex to control them.

Recommendation: start your day every day eating healthy with good fibers and no sugars apart from fruit and honey

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