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Creating Better Habits Was Never So Easy

Generally, habits are those things with which we become comfortable. They are familiar to us. They are familiar and comfortable even if they are not good for us. We know what to expect. A cigarette, for instance, is a reliable companion for the smoker—always there in times of need, always when a deep breath is needed.

But the habit, as self-sabotaging as it may be, is well known. One of the most significant triggers of our primitive brain (and I believe this is a genetic imprint that our brain possesses at birth) is the unknown. No matter how bad is your present situation or habit, the uncharted waters of the unknown, to the primitive brain, is much more dangerous. As we have seen above, danger causes us to fight or flee. Breaking bad habits signals the danger of moving into unknown, unfamiliar territory. Therefore, no matter how hard you try, your primitive brain automatically and instantaneously brings you back to “safety.”

What to Do?

Understand that if you are struggling with habits, you can’t seem to break them, whether patterns of behavior or thoughts; it always means that breaking the habit signals danger to your brain. If you begin living the opposite of what you are doing now, your brain will view the bad habit as dangerous.

Here’s a simple exercise you can do every day, and it only takes a few seconds.

  1. When you awaken from sleep, do not get right out of bed.

2. Lay in bed for a minute or two with your eyes closed.

3. Only focus on one behavior or thought pattern you want to change.

4. Begin visualizing yourself living as though you do not have this habit.

5. Become aware that you will develop slight anxiety/nervousness. This is because your automatic brain reacts to thoughts just as actual physical danger with the same fight or flight discharge.

6. Move through your visualization not as an observer but as an observer. Continue to push through it despite any anxiety you might feel.

As you make it your habit to visualize yourself not living with an undesirable habit, and you do this every day, your automatic brain will begin helping you fight or flee the bad habit as it becomes more unfamiliar, uncomfortable, abnormal, unknown, and thus dangerous.


As we go through life, much of what we think and do seems out of our control. When we realize that we can control the automatic inclinations of our primitive brain, it opens up an entirely new world, one that is innately familiar, very safe and secure, and nourishing to our mind, body, and soul.

© Dr. Charles F. Glassman, CoachMD

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