HABITS – Once INGRAINED – Become very difficult to change

However, it is possible if…….

By Lionel H. Phillips D.O.

Habit formation is the process by which behaviours become automatic. Habits can form without a person intending to acquire them, but they can also be deliberately cultivated – or eliminated -to better suit one’s personal goals.

Understanding how habits take shape to begin with, may be helpful in dismantling and replacing them.

First and foremost, one should avoid poor habits from being ingrained in the first place, especially once one is aware that their behaviour will not be in their best interests. That would normally apply to teenagers and older. After all, most if not all people have one or more bad habits. Unfortunately, poor habits are now found to be ingrained from the age of three, thanks to parents, peers and school mates.

One likely reason people are creatures of habit is that habits are efficient. People can perform useful behaviours without wasting time and energy deliberating about what to do. This tendency toward quick-and-efficient responses can backfire, however – as when it gets hijacked by the use of addictive drugs or consumption of unhealthy food, poor posture or the preference to become a couch “potato”.

While intrinsic motivation – the internal force pushing us to engage in a behaviour – is ultimately invaluable, incentives or rewards may help with good habit-building, by getting a person to begin to engage in the hoped-for behaviour in the first place. 

Before you decide to ingrain new habits, though, it is essential to identify the bad habits that are already sabotaging you. Doing so will help you to stick to the healthy habits you form and see progress in the short term.

Researchers wanted to see if they could break a habit by interfering with a part of the prefrontal cortex known as the Infralimbic (IL) Cortex, once they had shown that the habit was fully ingrained. Although the neural pathways that encode habitual behaviour appear to be located in deep brain structures known as the basal ganglia, it has been shown that the IL cortex is also necessary for such behaviours to develop.

It also appears that the IL cortex favors new habits over old ones, consistent with previous studies showing that when habits are broken, they are not forgotten, but replaced with new ones.

Follow-up studies by researchers are endeavoring to pinpoint exactly when, during a maze run, the IL cortex selects the appropriate habit. They are also planning to specifically inhibit different cell types within the IL cortex, to see which ones are most involved in habit control.

We will be concentrating on a few poor habits relating to the functions of your greatest asset, your very own Human Body. As such we will deal with THOSE THAT ARE “SIMPLE” TO CHANGE without invading on your lifestyle:

  • Eating Habits (no dieting)
  • Posture
  • Drinking Water – needs, how and why
  • Nose (Diaphragmatic) Breathing, rather than Mouth Breathing

Having dealt with “Eating Habits” and the “Digestive System” in my last article in Lay Of The Land, this one will deal with the positives and negatives concerning INGRAINED HABITS.

Is there the possibility of getting rid of your well-ingrained poor habits?

Absolutely Yes, if you are prepared to understand the ills of a current bad habit, and stand ready to admit to that fact. Everyone has one or more bad habits.

Straighten up for a Healthy Spine. Incorrect posture (left) and correct posture. (iStockphoto)

 Don’t feel discouraged should you slip backwards now and again. By admitting the failure and opting to get back into the correct actions, you will have made a giant positive step forward.

Note the date that you decide to give it your best shot to make a change. Then think and act positively without stress. Don’t stress if you deviate slightly or if you are having difficulty in maintaining it. Keep in mind that you are the driver, and only you are in charge of providing your body with its proven needs.

Habits become part and parcel of one’s life. Firstly, habits are actions that we take every day. Can you imagine eliminating even one of them? Every habit has an effect one or more of the systems and functions of the body. It is easier to ingrain them correctly in the manner that your body will benefit most, with you receiving the dividends of good health and all the positive aspects that come along with it. 

By understanding what your body needs from you, as well as how your body requires you to provide those needs, you will not only be honing in on the core poor habit or habits, but you will be exerting your sense of empowerment. Although you may experience certain “stresses” initially, within days you will feel the positive effects and the fact that the changes have not interfered with, or been invasive in any way on your lifestyle.

Good intentions are pure and real. Many have made themselves a promise at one time or another to make one or more changes to their lifestyle. But we have so many things weighing us down which cause well-intentioned plans to fail.  So maybe the key to meaningful change is not so much knowing how to make all those well-intended changes, it is knowing how to unload the past, so that it shouldn’t shape your future and bring you back to your old patterns.

Holds Water. Drinking lots of water curbs your appetite, prompting you to eat less.

Patience and persistency will pay off. “Rome was not built in a Day!” Should you realize that you have more than one poor habit that needs attention, choose one at a time. 

Give yourself and your brain a chance to understand the logic of having this new habit in place.  Don’t be disappointed if no changes, whether physical or mental, have taken place in the first week.  Take it one day at a time.  Remember, that any one change for the better will have a positive effect on the others.

Get a Whiff of This. Breathing through your nose is the correct and most optimal way for you to breathe. 

Where should you start? What are the most common damaging habits? A short list which will not be invasive of your lifestyle if performed correctly, are listed below. Rather the reverse will occur in that you will revel with the changes.

The suggestions are:

  • Eating large mouthfuls that will not and cannot be chewed (masticated) into a soft warm paste, required by the balance of the digestive system. Change to small mouthfuls and maximum chewing for a better taste as well as being welcomed by the balance of the digestive system.
  • If You are a Mouth Breather, rather than a Nose (Diaphragmatic) breather, the result will adversely affect your lungs and blood.
  • A poor Posture at any age, has severe and painful repercussions on the whole body. The spine has a very specific shape for many good reasons. For example, the axial skeleton is formed around the central axis of the body and thus includes the skull, spine, and ribcage. It protects the brain, spinal cord, lungs, heart,  esophagus and major sense organs like the eyes, ears, nose, and tongue. 
  • Are you consuming sufficient pure WATER daily?
Hard to Swallow. Good advice – chew your food slowly.

Do any of the above suggestions appear to be over and beyond giving even one of them your best shot?

Lionel H. Phillips D.O.

Got a question? Send me a note via my email address  –  


About the writer:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Lionel-H.-Phillips.jpg

Lionel Phillips is a Doctor of Osteopathy (1975), an International Fitness & Health Instructor, Consultant and Lecturer. He has researched and designed ‘The Needs & Functions of the Human Body’ as an educational subject for inclusion in all School Curriculums World-Wide. A past Federation Member and Israel Liaison Representative of IHRSA (International, Health & Racquet Sports club Association) and member of their worldwide “Panel of Experts”, Phillips is a recipient of the “Prime Ministers Award of Merit” (PM Menachem Begin).


While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.