what exactly are “bad’ habits”? We often associate the term with classic examples such as biting the ends of your nails, eating fast food or smoking.
While these can indeed be undesirable behaviors, the scope of what can be classed as a bad habit is vast. Defined merely as any repetitive behavior that has a negative or detrimental effect on your life or health, bad habits can manifest in a myriad of ways.
From fighting the urge to go to sleep just so you can see what’s happening on social media to heading to the beach without first putting on sun protection, sometimes it’s the bad habits we are unaware of that can cause the most damage. However, there are many simple ways to fight bad habits, even if you’ve had them for many years. Ultimately, understanding the underlying problems that trigger them may be key to breaking them. So, let’s discover the most common repetitive behaviors that can lead you astray and how to best break the cycle.
Gnawing at the ends of your nails for a lot of people manifests in moments of anxiety, stress or simply with bad habits. As many as 30 per cent of the population bite their nails, with teenagers being the biggest perpetrators.
It may seem like a harmless habit, except for leaving your nail a little jagged, but by continually chewing your nails, dirt and bacteria are being transferred into your mouth, putting you at greater risk of infections. Nailing biting is a habit that often develops as a child, so tackling it at an early age can help prevent the long-term effects.
In the past, preventing nail biting involved coating fingertips with bitter- or sour-tasting foods. However, today there are many nail polish products that have the same effect. Creating a physical barrier between the mouth and nail, such as gloves, mittens or even a mouth guard, can also help to break the habit. Maintaining short nails is also a method to alleviate the problem, preventing the habit from being able to manifest.
For the more severe cases, known as onychophagia, nail biting may have a connection to your mental health, such as anxiety or depression. In these cases, cognitive behavioral therapies can be explored to understand the emotional root of the habit and seek to remedy the underlying problems.
Note: Using special bitter-tasting varnish to tackle nail biting can help people get over this bad habit.
Eating too quickly
Sitting in front of a freshly delivered pizza or a gooey chocolate brownie, it’s easy to get lost in the excitement of the flavor explosion that’s about to follow. However, for some people it’s an experience that’s over in a matter of moments. Not only bad dinner party etiquette, eating too quickly can be one of the bad habits that affects your health. Studies have shown that those who are quick to munch on a mouth-watering meal have a greater risk of obesity and of developing metabolic syndrome, a group of conditions including heart disease and diabetes, when compared to those who take their time to chow down.
To remedy rapid eating, the solution can be quite simple: slow down and savor the flavor of your food. It’s believed that it takes around 20 minutes for the stomach to signal to the brain that it’s full. Therefore, to make sure you’re giving your body enough time to catch up, spend at least 20 minutes on each of your meals. This isn’t to say you have to spend this amount of time continually eating at your usual speed but rather increasing the time spent on your usual portion size.
Sucking your thumb
It’s a naturally occurring instinct to suck your thumb as a child, typically dissipating as a habit after the age of five. However, many adults carry the behavior into later life. It’s believed thumb sucking may release an endorphin rush, similar to that which occurs when infants breastfeed. Although it may provide a sense of comfort and relaxation to engage in this habit, it can cause problems in later life. Often leading to the misalignment of your teeth or affecting the roof of your mouth, tackling this habit can be similar to that of nail biting. Covering your thumb with a glove or coating it in a bitter taste may help to wean you away from this bad habit.
Note : Around one in ten adults still suck their thumb.
There can be something satisfying about finding a scab and picking it straight off, especially when you’re a child. However, there is a good reason why your mother scolded you for doing it. When the skin is cut or scraped; a scab develops to act as a protective barrier over the repairing skin beneath. By removing this layer, you increase the risk of infection and the time it will take to heal. To break those kind of bad habits distraction may be key. By preoccupying yourself with another task such as reading, drawing or grabbing a fidget spinner you can offer relief from the compulsion to pick.
There is still a debate on whether cracking your knuckles can be classed with bad habits due to research suggesting no connection between doing so and the development of arthritis, as previously believed. However, there are still concerns over potential injuries that can occur while self-cracking. Overall, jerking your knuckles back and forth to release the build-up of gas bubbles between your finger joints may lead to the weakening of your grip or even promote swelling. Occupying your hands may offer some relief against the compulsion to crack, for example squeezing a stress ball.
It has also been suggested that putting an elastic band around your wrist, pulling it back and releasing it to snap against your skin when you feel the need to crack may create a negative association with the consumption and train you to stop. This method can also be used with a range of bad habits, such as nail biting.
Using a smartphone in bed
“Using your phone before bed can leave you feeling tired the next morning”
We can all be guilty of scrolling through social media while tucked up in bed. However, staring at your smartphone before sleep can be considered with bad habits. The blue light emitted from your phone has been found to suppress the production of a night-time hormone melatonin. As part of our body’s natural 24-hour cycle, the setting of the Sun signals that the time to sleep is near, and so our bodies produce melatonin to relax the muscles and dull the nervous system to ease us into a deep slumber. However, the light emitted from our phone hijacks that signal and delays melatonin production, resulting in a disturbed sleep cycle. This can lead to tiredness and insomnia.
To prevent this bad habit disturbing a good night’s sleep, allow for one hour between updating your online profile and hitting the hay. Of course, smartphones aren’t the only perpetrator for interrupted sleep: tablets and TVs can have the same effect. If the temptation to log on is too much, leave your smartphone in another room and use a digital alarm clock to keep your schedule.
“Around 1.1 billion people in the world smoke according the World Health Organization”
Arguably one of the worst bad habits to develop, smoking can lead to a host of problems. A nicotine-fueled addiction, smoking is more than a bad habit – it’s been linked to several health concerns including cancer, heart disease and respiratory conditions. Unlike solving some bad habits, there isn’t one single way to quit smoking. Tackling both addiction to nicotine and the behavioral practice of lighting a cigarette can be difficult. That being said, many alternative products such as patches and gums have been proven to satisfy the need for nicotine without ingesting the harmful chemicals within a cigarette. One of the reasons smoking is so difficult to give up is the experience of daily triggers that make you want the temporary relief a cigarette may provide. These triggers can include stress, anxiety, boredom and socializing with other smokers. Addressing the root of the triggers may also alleviate the craving to smoke.
Slouching at your desk
In a world where everyone is sitting in front of a computer or smartphone for the majority of the day, it’s easy to find yourself hunched over a keyboard. Poor posture can lead to back pain, circulation issues and fatigue. To get you on the straight and narrow while seated at your work desk, sit so your knees are parallel with your hips and raise your computer screen to your eye line with a straight back. Making sure you have a chair with a supportive backrest will also help to prevent you slouching forward. While you are hunched over tension builds between your back muscles and causes discomfort. Taking time to get up and walk around will relieve some of that tension.
Financial stress can have serious health consequences, from high blood pressure to depression, so spending outside your means when you should be budgeting can have a bigger effect on your life than a low bank balance. Overspending is one of the bad habits that can be a tricky one to confront because the only way to overcome it is with self-discipline. Creating and sticking with a budget can help keep you in the black. In extreme cases, overspending can lead to racking up large amounts of debt. By freezing your credit cards, you may be able to nip the problem in the bud before it gets out of control.
Grinding your teeth
In moments of stress and anxiety, many people have adopted the habit of tightly clamping their jaws together and grinding their teeth. Aside from wearing down your teeth, this bad habit can lead to headaches, jaw stiffness and even earache. In many cases the person exhibiting this behavior isn’t even aware they are doing it. Often occurring during sleep, night grinders wake up with jaw pain and no recollection as to why.
To tackle teeth grinding, first addressing the root of the problem may be the solution. Meditation, therapy and exercise for the release of endorphins may help to keep your stress and anxiety levels in check and in turn keep your teeth from coming to blows. However, for the unconscious sufferers, using a mouth guard while you sleep will help to prevent the damaging effects of teeth grinding.
Whether it’s washing the dishes, answering a work email or writing that school essay that’s due tomorrow, procrastination is rated with bad habits that can affect many different aspects of your life. Other than the stress and anxiety caused by rushing to finish a task you’ve put off completing, procrastination can lead to you challenging your self-worth, producing poor-quality or incorrect work, and fatigue.
To prevent putting tasks off until the last minute, set yourself a daily schedule, listing six or so of the most important things you need to achieve that day. Also, be realistic in what you can achieve in your given time frame. Over reaching your goal or underestimating how long a task will take might leave you challenging your abilities, furthering your desire to put them off in the future. It also doesn’t hurt to try out a reward system for each task. By only doing your favorite things once you’ve carried out a task, you might be more likely to achieve your goals. You can also do some of these simultaneously: play your favorite TV show while you’re doing household chores like ironing, or eat your favorite snack only while you do school work.
Eating fast food
The temptation to grab a juicy cheeseburger or a greasy bucket of chicken can be hard to fight. And while having a cheeky fast-food meal every once in a while, isn’t necessarily with ‘bad habits’, when a server at your favorite burger joint knows your order off by heart, it’s probably time for a change. It’s no surprise that fast food can have negative effects on health when eaten regularly. From heart disease to obesity and diabetes, eating food filled with high levels of fat and sugar can wreak havoc on your body.
A good way to help ditch a fast-food habit is to make sure you don’t reach the point of feeling overly hungry. When ravenous, junk food presents itself as a quick fix, meaning we are less likely to take the time to make a home-cooked meal. By creating a weekly plan, you can stay on top of your hunger and out of a greasy spoon.
It’s difficult enough to break a bad habit when you’re aware of it, but trying to change a habit that you didn’t know you had can be seriously challenging. In a world where sustainability is a hot topic, how we dispose of food waste could reveal an unknown bad habit. It often comes naturally to simply throw food into the household waste bin without giving it a second thought. In the UK alone around 7 million tons of food is wasted each year. However, by purchasing a garden composter for organic material you can drastically reduce the amount of waste you send to landfill, and your garden will benefit from a nutritious fertilizer. For those foodstuffs that are approaching their best before date, many community apps such as Olio connect local people to exchange and give away food rather than disposing of it.
Life is full of uncontrollable interruptions, whether it’s an unexpected flat tire or a nonsense marketing phone call. But there is something particularly annoying about being interrupted during a conversation. Cutting someone off mid-sentence is something many people have been guilty of, but being a repeat offender can be socially detrimental, particularly in the workplace. Verbal interruptions can suggest that you regard what you have to say as more important than what someone else is saying, leaving others to feel less so. In the workplace this behavior may change; for example, people are less likely to stop their boss mid-sentence. If you are guilty of this, try to take a second before you speak and let the other person finish. If what’s on the tip of your tongue is a critical comment to the conversation and you’re worried you might forget it, simply jot it down on a notepad and wait for the right moment to speak without cutting anyone off.
It might not seem like a bad habit to ditch the morning toast and head straight to work, but repeatedly ignoring a critical meal of the day can be a routine with negative consequences. There’s a reason why they call it the most important meal of the day, and that’s because it kick-starts your metabolism. Leaving it until later in the day to chow down has been linked to health concerns such as weight gain and blood sugar fluctuations. To keep your metabolism in check, make sure you grab a bite bright and early.
Not using sunscreen
If you love to bask in the sunlight during the summer months but neglect to apply sunscreen in the hopes of developing a golden tan, you may be unwittingly exposing your skin to a whole host of future problems. Exposing unprotected skin to ultraviolet (UV) radiation can increase the risk of developing skin cancer and promotes premature ageing. While sunbathing, UV rays weaken the fibers in the skin that keep it smooth and youthful, leaving skin wrinkled and leathery. The same can be said of visiting sunbed salons. The UV radiation from a tanning booth produces the same radiation found in the Sun, presenting the same risks. To beat the burn and stay safe during summer, always carrying a travel-sized sunscreen in your bag is a great way to make sure you have protection against the Sun with you at all times. You can also harness the power of modern technology, which has taken away most of the guesswork when it comes to keeping an eye on the Sun. Downloading apps such as UV Lens can notify you when the UV levels in your area are high and when to apply sunscreen to avoid getting a burn.
Being a couch potato
Slumping across the sofa in front of the TV after a long day at work or on a lazy Sunday afternoon might be considered by some as the perfect ‘me time’ – the ideal way to chill out and unwind. Perhaps for an hour or two a day that might be true, but what about for five hours or even an entire day? Getting into the bad habit of spending extended periods being sedentary increases the risk of depression, obesity and can even affect your personality, making you less agreeable and conscientious. Keeping an active routine and rigid TV schedule is the best way to prevent becoming a couch potato. It’s recommended that you only spend around two hours per day sitting watching TV and at least 30 minutes exercising. Channel surfing or binge-watching the latest Netflix show can be hard to resist, so only tune in to watch a specific show and try to limit how many episodes you watch in a day. If you just have to see how the series ends, take the treadmill or exercise bike from the spare room, put it in the living room and exercise while you watch.
Sharing is caring!