Written by Amaan Khan (Team Optimity)
(5 min read)
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With the COVID-19 pandemic being a time of universal self-improvement, mindfulness, and worldwide unity; the pandemic was also a time of routine living. Being quarantined at home day-in and day-out was a hotspot for the creation of habits, good and bad.
Biting your nails, eating junk food, smoking cigarettes, negative self-talk, procrastination. Among countless others, these are a few examples of bad habits in your daily life that may have been formed and can have a significant negative impact on mental health, wellness, and overall quality of life, should you continue to harbor them.
As we finally move past the pandemic, we’ll teach you simple ways to identify bad habits in your life to break and overcome them resultantly leading a better, healthier, and happier life. It’s time to leave these old habits in the past and create some new positive habits.
How are bad habits formed?
What is a bad habit? In order to exile them from our daily routine altogether, it’s essential to understand habit formation and the neuroscience behind it.
By definition, a habit is the product of the consistent repetition of an action or a task. With enough repetition, this particular action then becomes a regular occurrence without much thought behind it attributed to the constant dopamine rush. The ability for the human mind to adapt to an activity like this can be a superpower if used correctly, but can also have significant negative consequences.
An example of this in a positive context is brushing your teeth; from the days of early childhood, the act of brushing your teeth morning and night has become a habit accredited to the repetitive nature of the task itself. With the overall result being better dental hygiene, it’s easy to identify this as a good habit.
The pandemic was a period where social connectedness was at an all-time low; with social distancing and stay-at-home orders, social media and texting were the ideal ways to stay connected with one another. This constant screen time and repetition of picking up your phone undoubtedly was a bad habit that may still play a major role in your day-to-day life. Think of an unwanted action in your everyday life that you may not have much control over anymore, this is classified as a bad habit.
The framework of habit creation:
Diving deeper into the formation of habits, there is a universal four-step framework that conquers the creation of the majority of new habits. For simplicity purposes, I’m going to use the previously mentioned habit of being addicted to your phone as an example to demonstrate this process:
The “Cue” stage refers to any sort of stimuli that may trigger a craving or need to carry out the habit in question. When you receive a notification on your phone or see your phone in the corner of your eye, this is a “Cue” that leads to a “Craving”.
The “Craving” aspect of this framework is a desperate feeling or need that you receive following the “Cue”. After you receive that notification or see your phone, a need to know what the notification says or if anyone is attempting to contact you takes over. You must then fulfill the “Craving” which triggers the “Response”.
The “Response” is the action or the habit that is carried out as a result of the feeling that the “Craving” provides. In this instance, you pick up the phone and check the recent notifications fulfilling the “Craving” that was induced by the “Cue”.
Finally, the “Reward” is the feeling following the action you took as the “Response”. The satisfaction of the urge to check your phone is the “Reward” in this instance. This will likely create the “Craving” once you receive the “Cue” leading to the “Response” and “Reward”.
As you can see all four stages link together in somewhat of a habit loop that rinses and repeats if not addressed. You may be wondering, how do I put a stop to this?
How do I overcome my bad habits?
The first and most important step towards breaking habits or behavior change is the awareness that it exists in the first place. Thank goodness for this article! In all seriousness, judging by the fact that you’re reading this article right now, I suspect you’ve already made progress in this.
Awareness involves identifying all four stages of your habit loop. It’s extremely effective to sit down, grab a piece of paper and brainstorm any potential triggers for your habit, feelings that arise following this, and so forth following the framework listed above. Through this activity, you’ll be able to catch the habit in the act and take the necessary steps towards breaking it.
It’s essential that when trying to overcome a bad habit, there is some form of accountability involved. Oftentimes, we find ourselves succumbing to our cravings, and having an external form of accountability to put a stop to it is extremely helpful. Therefore, source the help of a trusted friend or family member to help keep you accountable, or even start a journal to track your progress and keep yourself accountable that way. By journaling and tracking your progress, you have a medium where you can see how far you’ve come, acting as extra motivation when times get tough.
Breaking bad habits isn’t easy by any means. You won’t just be able to overcome a bad habit cold turkey. It takes time, dedication, and consistency. There will be setbacks, roadblocks, slip-ups, or all of the above, so it’s important to stay true to your goals and keep working towards them. What are you waiting for? Say goodbye to those bad habits once and for all, and look forward to new healthier habits!
Join the conversation: What are some bad habits you’re looking to get rid of in the upcoming months? What are some good habits that you’re looking to implement?