Bad habits and good habits
Everyone has bad habits to some degree or another. You may have a problem with biting your nails or even a mild addiction. Some people have problems waking up or sticking to their exercise schedule. Meanwhile, it can be difficult to cultivate good habits. You may have issues with eating healthy, consistently exercising, or setting aside time for self-care, for example. A lot of these good habits would help people achieve their long-term goals. However, it sometimes feels almost impossible to break a bad habit. Fortunately, you are by no means alone in these issues. This blog will cover how these bad habits emerge, why good habits are so hard to cultivate, and how to address those two facts.
Where do bad habits come from?
All habits form from the exact mechanisms. In essence, habits come from the formation of routines. Your habit likely initially started in response to an external stimulus or multiple stimuli. For example, you might have felt stressed and, in response, bit your nails. Your stress may have been slightly relieved by this, rewarding your brain. By repeating this pattern, you form it into an unconscious process. In more scientific terms, your brain begins associating these patterns and causes you to repeat them. Why does this feel so powerful in our lives? Because it’s unconscious, we hardly ever notice it happening until we reflect on the habit. This is also why it is so challenging to eliminate habits you are unhappy with.
Where do good habits come from?
Good habits come from precisely the same neurological principles as bad habits! External stimuli prompt a response, and then you repeatedly perform that response. Perhaps studying for a test got you a good grade a few times. This is the same reward we were talking about. Then, studying can become an almost unconscious part of your life.
How do I cultivate good habits and eliminate bad ones?
Good habits can be tough to cultivate. One of the reasons is that bad habits are almost always more immediate and intentional. For example, cultivating a habit to start scheduling your month out on a calendar requires a lot of effort to actually begin. Luckily, because we understand that good habits are formed the same way as bad habits, we can get some things in place. Doing so alone, however, is often too difficult. It isn’t easy to make new habits or to introduce something new into your life. But it is also the social aspect. Social reinforcement is a great tactic to help build good habits.
One thing you can do is accountability partnership. You likely already come to your friends and family for assistance with mental health. Talking to someone you trust and respect to ask them to keep you accountable and achieve your goals regarding habit-forming is an excellent idea. An accountability partner will hold you to account for breaking a habit. Remember how we discussed that habits are reinforced through unconscious action? When in the process of breaking bad habits, you may not even notice you’re returning to them! A partner will ensure that you will no longer be unaware of your habit when it’s happening.
Finding a Partner
When trying to find an accountability partner it is essential to have someone you can trust. They should be able to check in with you in a non-hostile way and ensure you are holding up to your habit-changing intentions. For example, if you are trying to eliminate junk food and engage in more healthy eating, you might want to talk with them around lunch or dinner time.
Another great way to start developing good habits that introduce the social element is habit coaching. Here at Clearly Better Counseling, we offer programs that give you an accountability partner and help you through scientifically-backed methods to break free of the habits you hate and cultivate the ones you love. From getting to sleep on time to eating better to exercising regularly, our programs are here to help you feel good about your habits again!