Add & Subtract - Replacing Old Habits

May 21, 2023

Today's theme is Replacing Old Habits

Next week we will look at the seriously destructive habits we label addictions. Let’s warm up with the gentler layers of behaviours we want to change.



We are creatures of habit. Our ancestors survived longer when they noticed patterns: the unusual sound or movement that caught our attention might be a wild animal, so we learned to notice and react quickly. Different became stressful: familiar felt good and relaxing.

While too comfortable can be boring and stressful in its own way, we are generally wired to stay in our comfort zone. We keep to proven ways of living safely in the jungle, and our physiology rewards us with ease.

To change behaviours that are not ideal but are in our comfort zone - checking the phone upon waking, eating too much comfort food, putting off unpleasant jobs - we do better when we practice compassion for ourselves and understand that our primitive brain is rewarding our inertia.

Suggestion: Write down three small but unhelpful things in your life you would like to upgrade (leave the bigger ones for next week!).

Next write down three better, healthier behaviours you would choose to replace the old habits.

Each time you notice yourself going into old behaviour, gently remind your body-mind that you are safe, that the new habit is ‘good different’. Be kind and soothing to yourself as you do the replacement behaviour.

Reinforce the change with praise and a pat on the back.

Sufi poet Rumi on change:

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself”



Our subconscious mind-body has been working for thousands of years to successfully keep humans alive. Trying to force change is to like trying to stop a bulldozer with bare hands - our subconscious will always over-ride our conscious will, however determined we might be. Fighting our evolution only increases resistance.

Harsh judgment of ourselves for not making the impossible happen reinforces a sense of failure and powerlessness. We are punishing ourselves, lowering our confidence and reducing our chances of positive change.

By working with rather than against the power of our primitive self, we can harness its immense strength in achieving change. Channel the water instead of trying to dam it up!

Suggestions: The subconscious mind loyally follows our instructions. Speak its language through:

Imagining yourself engaging in the new habits, exploring the feel, look and sense of the experience (eg doing an exercise routine, eating healthy meals, having tech-free time reading or socialising)
Using pictures of healthy behaviours you wish to increase, through photos on the fridge, vision boards, screen savers
Repeating statements affirming the new you (eg I am enjoying living at my ideal weight)

Author Becca Lee:

“Be kind to your body, gentle with your mind and patient with your heart. Stay true to your spirit, cherish your soul and never doubt yourself. You are still becoming, my love, and there is no one more deserving of the nurturing grace of your love”

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