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Four Top Tricks To Beat The Lizard Brain
How often have you found yourself snacking directly out of the fridge without even being hungry? Perhaps you say you’ll only have one glass of wine that inevitably leads on to more? How about saying you’re going to focus on work all morning, only to be scrolling through social media twenty minutes later?
So often, we find ourselves doing something we don’t want to do without even realising we’re doing it. Despite our best intentions, we can fall back into bad habits that we try to avoid. This is thanks to our lizard brain responses. But, fortunately, there are ways to take control of impulsive, reptilian behaviour.
What Is The Lizard Brain?
The lizard brain is the nickname for the limbic system in the brain. The limbic system is responsible for primitive, automatic and immediate responses. This part of the brain is crucial as it takes care of your fundamental needs to survive. It not only covers essential functions such as the beating of the heart and breathing of the lungs, but it also focuses on fundamentals of self-care, feeding, mating and survival.
The lizard brain also focuses on habits and memory to make processes automatic. This could be as helpful as always putting your keys in a certain place, or as unhelpful as creating unhealthy responses to triggers. For example, feeling sad leading to food binges, or feeling stressed making you want to smoke.
So, why is it called the lizard brain? Because it is the part of the brain that closely resembles the brain of reptiles. It is primitive and animalistic and operates on a largely subconscious level to keep you alive.
Because it is so inherent, automatic and responsive, it can be hard to control. It may be the reason why your plans to give up any addictions or adopt healthier practices always seem to fail. Even though the lizard brain is a challenge, there are techniques that you can implement to stop the lizard brain in its tracks when it comes to addictive and unhealthy behaviours.
How To Manage The Addictive Lizard Brain
Focus On Your Breath
Your lizard brain will respond immediately to stress. What’s more, it will try to make you follow your usual behaviour patterns when faced with stress as these are relatively automatic. It will resist trying something new. This may be why you find yourself in an endless cycle of unhealthy behaviours, no matter how much you want to change them.
If your typical response to stress is to drink alcohol, reach for unhealthy snacks or to smoke, for example, then it is important not to let your impulsive lizard brain make this decision for you.
Instead, when facing stress, try to focus your immediate response on your breath. The reptilian brain controls your breathing. So, by focusing on deep, slow breaths, your lizard brain still has something to do but will give the other parts of your brain time to catch up.
When you focus on the breath, you become calmer and allow reasoning to come into play instead of the impulses of the lizard brain.
So, next time you face stress or an impulse for unhealthy behaviours, adopt a breathing technique and let the reasoning side of the brain catch up.
Managing impulsive behaviour does require discipline and one of the ways you can train your brain is through meditation. Meditation is a fantastic way to practice mental discipline. It can work wonders to focus on the benefits of stillness.
In terms of managing the lizard brain, meditation can help you to have an awareness of your thoughts and feelings. This means that you can feel more present in the moment. Consequently, being present means you can recognise any impulsive behaviours without reacting to them.
Furthermore, meditation and mindfulness can also help to strengthen the mind against negative thoughts, which can help to lower stress and reduce those impulsive, unhelpful triggers.
Create New Habits
The lizard brain is a creature of habit and will act on autopilot based on your past behaviours. One of the ways to get the lizard brain to work in your favour is to adopt healthier new habits. Habit stacking can be a great way to adopt new healthier behaviours as you’ll be doing the first habit automatically.
Habit stacking is where you tag on your new habit, by stacking it on top of an old habit. For example, laying out your gym clothes the night before means that as soon as you wake up, you’ll dress in gym clothes, making it seem natural to do a workout next. Alternatively, as you wait for your morning tea or coffee to brew, you spend that minute or two meditating.
The key focus for this is to look out for cues that you do every day without fail; this could be waking up, taking a shower, going to work and going to bed. Almost every action within your day could be a cue for you to stack a new healthy habit on top.
Another characteristic of the lizard brain is that it is self-centred. It focuses solely on your survival and doesn’t care about anyone else. So, you can appeal to your lizard brain’s selfish approach by always asking; ‘what’s in it for me?’.
So, when you are choosing between a healthy behaviour and an unhealthy behaviour, make sure to show your lizard brain the benefits of the healthy choice. For example, when deciding between a healthy meal or a takeout, make sure the benefits of the healthy options are all about you. It can help to say; ‘I’m choosing this because it will make me feel better, give me more energy and will help boost my self-confidence.’
So, before you let your lizard brain take over, make sure it knows what the real benefits are, not the immediate, impulsive faux-benefits are.
Take Control Of The Lizard Brain
If you need help managing the impulsive lizard brain or are having trouble breaking old habits and addictions, then hypnotherapy can really help. With bespoke hypnotherapy, I can help to rewire the brain to form healthy behaviour patterns and responses. To find out more about how hypnotherapy can help you, I offer free initial consultations. To book your free consultation, email firstname.lastname@example.org