Reasons We Take Up Bad Habits
It’s common for most of us to develop a few bad habits along the way – whether it’s procrastination, unhealthy eating, or neglecting self-care.
In your quest for self-improvement, know that discovering and understanding the underlying reasons for developing these habits is the first step toward making positive changes.
What are some Common Reasons for developing Bad Habits?
There are many triggers for us to develop bad habits, but the following are the most common.
• Boredom: When bored, turning to unhealthy habits to pass the time or find entertainment is not unusual. To overcome boredom-related bad habits, it’s important to find activities that are engaging and meaningful to you. Examples are taking up a new hobby, volunteering, or pursuing personal growth opportunities.
• Stress: Stress is a common trigger for bad habits such as overeating, smoking, or procrastination. To overcome stress-related bad habits, the answer is to find healthy ways to manage stress such as exercise, meditation, or talking to someone you trust or a therapist.
• Need for validation: Sometimes, people use bad habits to seek validation or attention from others. To overcome this bad habit, you need to focus on your self-worth rather than seeking it from others. This might involve setting goals that align with your values, practicing self-compassion, or seeking support from friends and family.
• Learned behaviors: Seeing family members or other role models engaging in bad habits can lead to imitation to fit in or feel accepted. When children see adults or peers engaging in certain behaviors, it makes it much more likely that they will imitate them.
• Difficulty with self-regulation: People often turn to bad habits to cope with negative emotions or to avoid facing challenges. To overcome this bad habit, it’s important to work on self-regulation skills such as managing emotions, setting boundaries, and seeking support when needed.
• Lack of structure: When you don’t have a clear sense of purpose or structure, you might turn to unhealthy habits to fill the void. To overcome this bad habit, you need to create a sense of structure and purpose in your life, such as setting goals, creating a schedule, or finding activities that bring meaning and fulfillment.
Bad habits are ultimately due to a lack of self-awareness and/or self-control.
Why Are Bad Habits Hard to Break?
As discussed above habits are primarily formed in the subconscious mind but let’s explore a few reasons why bad habits are so stubborn and what you can do to overcome them.
Your Life Is Out of Alignment
Bad habits often arise when something in your life is out of balance.
Maybe you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, or perhaps you’re not getting enough sleep or exercise. Whatever the case, when something in your life is off kilter, it can be hard to break a bad habit.
What’s out of alignment? Here are some common examples and what to do to fix them:
- Sleep/energy levels – Make sure to get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and eat a balanced diet.
- Stress/anxiety – Engage in stress-relieving activities such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises.
- Time management – Create a daily routine and schedule tasks to maximize productivity.
- Finances – Develop a budget plan and stick with it.
- Relationships – Spend quality time with family and friends.
- Work/life balance – Set boundaries between work and leisure activities so that you can rest and relax during off-hours.
It’s important to identify what might be out of alignment and work to fix it.
To determine what is out of alignment in your life you may need to practice mindfulness by keeping a journal or using a daily habit tracker to help you figure out what’s not right for you.
For example, if you have low energy, is it due to your diet, sedentary lifestyle, stress, or anxiety, or is your time management needing some work? This requires brutal honesty about what you may be doing to cause this misalignment.
You Don’t Understand Why You Are Doing It
Sometimes, people engage in bad habits without really understanding why.
Maybe you’re doing it out of boredom, to cope with negative emotions, or simply because it’s a habit you’ve always had.
It is difficult to address the issue without understanding the root cause of your bad habits so that you can make lasting changes.
Practicing these few steps that will allow you to get to the root cause of a bad habit:
- Identify the habit – Take the time to observe the bad habit so you can determine what exactly the bad habit is.
- Track your behavior – Take notes when the habit occurs.
- Ask yourself hard questions – Ask yourself why. Write down the situation or emotions you experience that trigger the habit. Asking yourself these hard questions will help to identify and understand any underlying causes and especially the payoff you get from performing the bad habit.
- Take action
You Only Focusing On the Goal, Which Overwhelms You
Breaking a bad habit is sometimes overwhelming. This is especially true if you’re focusing on the end goal rather than the steps it takes to get there.
So instead of trying to quit a habit cold turkey, it is often more effective to focus on small, achievable steps.
For example, if you’re trying to stop procrastinating, try setting a goal to work on a task for just 15 minutes each day.
You’ll be more prone to sticking to your new habit and making lasting changes by taking small steps that accumulate over time.
Does Replacing Bad Habits with Good Habits Work?
Bad habits are a frustrating and persistent part of life. They can hold you back from reaching your goals and lead to negative consequences in your personal and professional life.
Many people try to replace bad habits with good habits as a solution, but does this approach work?
First, let’s explore the importance of addressing the root cause of the bad habit.
The Importance of Finding the Root Cause
One factor in the success of replacing bad habits with good habits is understanding what is driving the bad habit.
Whether or not you’re aware of it, bad habits often serve a specific purpose or fulfill a need.
The idea is that the bad habit is performed to relieve stress, boredom, or anxiety (or whatever your issue is). But it’s a problem because the bad habit tends to make the original problem worse, so you might focus on the bad habit and just stop it without understanding the root cause.
If you do this, it may cause you to implement the wrong good habit to replace the bad habit, making it seem like replacing bad habits does not work.
The problem is that if you don’t address the underlying issue causing the bad habit, you will continue to have the trigger for the habit. Due to this, you may struggle to maintain the good habit because it’s not fulfilling the original need that the bad habit alleviates.
To uncover what is causing your bad habit, ask yourself some questions:
• What need or desire is the bad habit fulfilling?
• What emotions or feelings do I experience before, during, and after the bad habit?
• What situations or environments trigger the bad habit?
• What are the consequences or costs of the bad habit?
Answering these questions offers insight into the root cause of your bad habit and helps you identify potential solutions.