About: making small changes to daily behaviours
We humans actually have three types of brains:
- 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.
- The old mammal brain is the center of our motivation, emotions, and memory, including behaviour such as parenting.
- 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.
- And two brain halves, the left brain half dedicated to logic and categorization and the right brain half dedicated to intuition and creativity. Connected via the corpus callosum and the pineal gland.
Habits we have acquired we perform without thinking. Such as driving a car, but also bad habits such as eating chocolate croissants for breakfast or smoking. Habits are largely performed by our reptilian brain which is unconscious. For example 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 by itself.
Unconsciously a particular smell can trigger a complex emotion for reasons that our conscious mind cannot understand. And that occurs because the old mammalian brain has processed the smell and retrieved a memory related to the smell. It triggered the emotion relevant to that experience. When our new mammal brain becomes conscious of the smell and the memory we understand our emotion. Emotions are triggered by the reptilian and old mammal brain. We suddenly become aware of them via our neo cortex.
We know consciously we should not eat chocolate croissants for breakfast or smoke, but we still do it. That is because these behaviors have become fixed habits. Our consciousness tells us it is not a good thing to do. But it is hard to stop these behaviors because our unconscious brain layers are powerful.
What is required is to reprogram the reptilian brain. And to change these habits into other healthier habits. For example when we follow a 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. Something that is as enjoyable as eating chocolate croissants for taste and for the body and brain providing the sugars it requires. 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 because it contains a lot of additional sugars, Freshly made Bircher muesli is a good alternative.
The other important thing is to add regularity and discipline. 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 already had a good breakfast. And then a very healthy dinner with a lot of fibers. Just some fish or chicken and green leaf 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. Therefore the gut is also called the second brain.
Enable the neocortex via the right brain half
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 brain governs our daily behavior. And it inhibits 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 simple: we all can make a conscious choice, a choice as to whether we are going to give in to the primitive urges and desires of our reptilian brain. And instead use our mammal brain and our neocortex to control them. But this is not as simple as it sounds. There is another factor that can be very helpful in the transition from bad habits to good habit. Follow your intuition and being creative. The left brain half can have very sticky and categorized beliefs and judgments. The right brain half offers a second opinion which is much more based on common sense.
Nowadays we tend to rely on our left brain half. It is something that well embedded into education from a very young age on. We should start using our right brain half more during the day. When making small or larger decisions the right brain half can be very helpful in the process of changing from bad habits to good habits or from bad decisions to good decisions. One powerful way to enable the connection between the brain halves is by doing some daily meditation and to stimulate the pineal gland.