We all have bad habits, every single one of us. Some have a lot (why are you looking at us?), others just a couple, but it’s a worldwide problem. Whether you binge on TV, bite your nails or leave work to the last minute, having bad habits is a way of life. So much so that giving them up is basically impossible. It’s like telling someone to give up drinking – it can’t be done just like that. These bad habits are just as much of an addiction as smoking or gambling. Why is that, though?
An explanation for bad habits
It all comes down to dopamine. For those not in the know, this a chemical released in our brain that creates a feeling of pleasure. If you feel good eating something sugary like a donut (mmmm donuts), your brain clocks that it was pleasurable and wants a repeat performance. That’s how you end up eating a whole box of them and consequently questioning what you’re doing with your life. While you may be filled with regret afterward, that in-the-moment pleasure is what keeps you going back for more time after time.
Saying no to these bad habits is easy enough to consider, but stopping yourself from doing them is another thing entirely. Here what’s you should do to try and get out of them (in a sensible way)
Don’t be so hard on yourself
You have to find a manageable way to ease yourself out of bad habits, kind of like with losing weight. Being too harsh on yourself may work, to begin with, but it doesn’t take much to tip yourself over the edge and end up back where you started. Even worse, you might end up driving even further into your bad habits.
Always remember that a positive mindset leads to a positive life. If you think too negatively about your habits, then you’re only going to give yourself a negative self-image. What do we all do when we feel down? Lick our wounds and find a way to cheer ourselves up – aka succumb to our bad habits. It basically just becomes an endless cycle, and we end up resenting ourselves for not being able to change.
So, stop being so hard on yourself. Once you shift off the blame, you can start to combat the root of the problem with positive reinforcement. How do you do that?
Replace the bad with the good
Rather than stopping one behavior completely, you need to swap it for something that’s better for you. For instance, if you’re thirsty and you’d normally have a soda, drink water instead of drinking nothing at all. It’s a basic example, but it highlights what you need to do.
It’s a lot easier to start doing something new, as long as it still elicits a positive response from your brain. That’s how you got into this situation in the first place, after all. Make simple changes and do them fairly regularly, all the while ensuring that you’re still getting as much enjoyment from the new habit as you did the old one. Just don’t push yourself too hard.
Make sure to consider what led you to start your bad habits in the first place. We can sometimes get into a routine of doing things that may not be ideal for us, but we only did them originally because there wasn’t an alternative. If you can’t identify why you started doing something bad, then you can’t find a way to replace it with something good.
You’ll never be rid of all your bad habits because we all need that bit of pleasure that’s not good for us. You can’t honestly say that you’ll give up junk food forever or never miss a workout, can you? We all want to get the best out of life, and just because something is bad to do habitually, it doesn’t mean we can’t indulge every so often.