Most of us have at least one habit we believe is ‘bad’ that we want to break. Whether it’s biting our nails, smoking, or spending too much time on social media. A habit can be frustratingly difficult to kick, regardless of whether it is deemed ‘good’ or bad’. However, conventionally ‘bad’ habits always seem that bit harder to change. But why? In this article, we’ll explore the facts about bad habits: what they are, where they come from, and why they’re so hard to break. By understanding the psychology behind our bad habits, we can develop strategies for breaking them once and for all.
What is a habit?
A habit can be defined as a recurring behavior that is often done without conscious thought. Habits are developed over time and can be both good and bad. For example, brushing your teeth every morning is widely accepted as being a good, if not necessary, habit. On the other hand, smoking cigarettes is generally regarded as a bad habit.
Most experts agree that there are three components to every habit: the cue, the routine, and the reward. The cue is what triggers the habit. For example, the cue for smoking may be seeing someone else smoke or feeling stressed. The routine is the actual behavior itself, such as lighting a cigarette and taking a drag. The reward is the payoff for engaging in the behavior, such as a nicotine high.
Over time, the cue and the reward become associated with each other in your brain, to the point where you no longer need to think about it—the habit just happens automatically. That’s why it can be so difficult to break a bad habit; your brain has learned to crave the reward, even if the reward isn’t necessarily good for us.
The history of habits
Habits have been around for as long as human beings have walked the earth. In fact, early humans likely developed certain behavioral patterns in order to increase their chances of survival. Early humans who were able to develop the habit of using fire would have had an advantage over those who did not because fire provided warmth and protection from predators.
Why are some habits good, but other habits are bad?
So, why are some habits good and others bad? It really comes down to two things: intentionality and impact.
Good habits are typically those that we intentionally pursue because we know they will have a positive impact on our lives. For example, eating healthy and exercising regularly are two habits that people pursue because they know these behaviors will lead to improved physical health.
Bad habits, on the other hand, are often unintentionally developed and usually have negative consequences. Drinking alcohol obsessively or watching too much television are two examples of bad habits that can have negative effects on our health and wellbeing.
Of course, not all bad habits are created equal. Some, such as smoking cigarettes, are much more dangerous than others, like biting your nails. However, all bad habits share one common characteristic: they ultimately make our lives worse in some way, shape or form. The desire to change is usually constant with bad habits. Whether it is a small niggling voice in the back of your head, or whether it’s become your New Year’s Resolution to change, we are usually aware that what we are doing should change.
Why are bad habits so hard to break?
There are a number of reasons why bad habits are so hard to break. They usually provide immediate gratification that feels good momentarily. This temporary relief makes it hard to give up the behavior long-term.
Another reason why bad habits are so tough to break is that they become ingrained in our daily routines. We do them without even thinking about it. For example, our natural reaction to feeling upset or stressed may be to drink alcohol. These automatic behaviors can be tough to change because they are so deeply ingrained in our psyche. Acknowledging our bad habits is the first step of many.
These learned behaviors become ingrained in our minds and can be tough to change. That’s because they’re often based on emotional triggers that give us instant gratification. If you bite your nails when you’re anxious, the act of nail biting provides you with a sense of relief from your anxiety.
Can I change my bad habits?
While bad habits can be difficult to break, it’s not impossible. Understanding the psychological factors behind your bad habit can help you develop a plan to break it. For example, if you know that your nail biting is triggered by anxiety, you can try to find other ways to cope with your stress instead. Trying meditation or journaling to keep your anxiety in check is a good place to start.
Of course, changing any type of behavior is easier said than done. But with some hard work and determination, you can overcome your bad habits and live a happier and more positive life.
In conclusion – bad habits are natural, but you can change them!
Bad habits are learned behaviors that are usually based on emotional triggers. They can be tough to break but understanding the psychology behind your bad habit can help you develop a plan to change it. Try to identify the cue, the routine, and the reward of your own habits. You’ll gain a deeper understanding into your behaviour and can begin to take the steps necessary to live a more positive life.