Habits! By Jamie Polson

Are habits breakable?

By: Jamie Polson

Everybody has habits both good and bad and many people believe that it is close to impossible to break the bad habits like smoking or eating junk food, but research shows that their is hope for breaking bad habits.

What are habits?  The definition is” a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.”  What does that mean?  Everything we do is some type of habit.  Everybody has habits no matter where they are or who they are.  Some examples of habits that are pretty common are brushing teeth, the route that one takes when commuting to work or school, or eating breakfast etc.  How do habits form?  They are the result of needs, desires or wants.  Habits come about from three different stages.  The first stage is that the person should continuously try to accomplish something new.  This is often the hardest phase of making a habit, because it requires the full attention of the person that is doing the action.  A good example of this is tying shoes or taking a route somewhere that is new to the driver or commuter.  The next stage is repetition.  A habit is formed from doing something over and over again. If a person ties their shoes a lot, they will, in turn, get very good at tying their shoes and that is now a habit.  The third and last stage is reward.  When people do a difficult task that they want to get better at, a good way to do it with more ease is to reward themselves everytime they do it correctly.  This sends a message to the brain saying that it likes doing that action because it leads to a treat afterwards.  This then makes the action easier and more fun even later when you do not reward yourself because your brain has a happy memory of having done that thing.

Habits can be both good or bad.  Even a healthy habit can be dangerous if you do it excessively.  To explain, if you eat too much even healthy foods, you could get fat, which is not healthy.  Exercise is good but if one exercises for eight or nine hours a day, it could put a lot of strain on your body.  You could also lose more weight than is healthy or natural.  Often habits are formed around a certain desire or need that people feel is important.  There are many behaviors that feel good while people are doing them but have more negative impact than positive.  Smoking tobacco products is a big one. While one is in the act of smoking, it may feel great. It relieves stress and makes you totally calm. People have also reported that they tend not to binge eat while they are smoking.  However, smoking has more negative impact than positive, like lung cancer, damage to one’s airways, increase of having a stroke, and increase of dying just to name a few. The reason why people don’t stop in spite of these dangers is because of the negative impact is because of how addictive the tobacco is.  Often people also don’t realize how bad they are until it is too late.  

How can one break a certain habit?  Habit breaking can be very hard. If the following steps are accomplished it can be accomplished.  Typically, the type of habit that people want to break is the type that is evident and off-putting in social situations, like biting your nails when in a conversation.  In order to break this type of habit, you have to notice when and where you typically do it.  Next, you need to follow through with some sort of consequence (applying a nontoxic, but bitter taste to the nails).  For instance maybe eating a food that is unenjoyable for that person so the habit becomes undesirable to the person in question.  Other good ways of eliminating bad habits is to get rid of the trigger.  The trigger is the thing that causes someone to do the habit, like a trigger for relaxing on the couch is that someone would automatically watch T.V and get unhealthy snacks.  A good example is if you tend to immediately sit on the couch, eat chips, and watch tv, when you get home , it might be wise to move the chips and remote to other places so that it is harder to find them.  This would start to slowly break that habit because of the work required to start it.  Another good way to break a habit is to get a friend to push you to stop, this would need to be someone who cares about your well being and wants to see you live a healthier life.  Ideally this person would be present when the person tends to engage in the bad habit behavior.  

Habits are caused from doing an activity over and over again with the intention to get better at the activity.  They also help to free up our minds to focus on more important things.  Everybody has habits both good and bad which are caused consciously and some without realizing it.  Many people think that bad habits are close to impossible to break but with hard work, repetition, persistence, and a friend to help it can be done.