Image a street, one you know like the back of your hand, you could walk own this street blindfold or in pitch darkness and it wouldn’t make any difference, you know exactly where the curb is, you know every drain cover, where the turns and the corners are. You walk down this street without thinking about it, you walk it subconsciously.
Image that one day you are walking down this street and you’re thinking about something else entirely and someone had dug a big hole in the road; what will happen? You fall in. You will probably curse a bit, get out and carry on.
The next day you walk down this street and you remember the hole is there as you’re walking along, but a few moments later you forget and fall in.
The day after that you’re walking down the street an you remember you’ve fallen in this hole twice, so you walk up to the edge of the hole and look in it. You try to go around it, you try to avoid it, but you fall in.
The next day you’re walking down your street, you go up to the hole and stare at it, determined not to fall in, but in concentrating so hard focusing on this hole, you can’t avoid it and you fall in.
The day after that you’re walking down the street and this time you have brought a big wheel barrow of rubble with you. You approach the hole and you tip the rubble in and fill the hole up.
The next day, you’re walking down the street that you’ve filled in with the rubble from your wheelbarrow and it reminds you of the lovely piece of road that use to be there are you fall in.
The next day you choose to take a different route.
The strategies help for changing habits in your life. If you just take something out of your life; if there’s a habit you want to change like eating a more healthy diet by stopping eating crisps or chocolate or perhaps stop smoking, you’re at risk of falling back to the old habits because you’ve left a hole in your routines and associations that your brain needs to fill with something.
Even though these old habits might not be good for you, your subconscious doesn’t know that, it just behaves by routine, associations, habits and triggers. So if something is not there any more your anxiety levels will rise at a subconscious level and your primitive brain will compel you to behave in the same way you did yesterday – after all you survived yesterday even if you did fall in a hole.
You can change a bad habit if you take it out and then fill the hole it’s left with something positive that excites you. That will prevent you falling back in the hole quite so easily. Therefore, one of the secrets to change bad habits permanently is to replace it with something else that you want to do even more than the thing you took out.
However, there is a word of warning: It must be something positive that you enjoy because it needs to create serotonin in order to form new happy, positive neural networks in your intellectual mind. There is no point in replacing a chocolate muffin with a carrot stick if you don’t like carrot sticks more than you like chocolate muffins because it will only be a temporary fix that you can’t maintain.
The best way to change habits permanently is to do something entirely different, for example change your lifestyle and take yourself completely away from the familiarity that triggers the old habits.
But by far the single most important factor for changing habits successfully is to be happy and positive about it. Decide without any ambiguity or regret, because if you have in any concerns or have any anxiety lingering about leaving the old habit behind, the anxiety will cause the primitive brain to step in which will then compel you into old patterns of behaviour again (cravings).
If you are happy, positive and committed you will be creating serotonin and it’s the serotonin that will keep you in your intellectual brain that doesn’t want you to follow bad habits and can keep you on your new habit path.