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  • Writer's pictureShannon Kelly

Habits. How Do They Affect Our Lives?

Habits have a large impact on our everyday lives. You may often hear people say “humans are creatures of habit and routine”. It is very much true. Habits are behaviours we perform regularly, often without consciously thinking about them. Habits can either be beneficial or detrimental, depending on what they are. Habits can fall into a number of categories including, exercise, meditation, diet, reading, hygiene, sleep etc. In saying this, habits can affect our emotional, physical or psychological self. 

If you think about some of your routines, such as a morning routine or nightly routine, you may wonder how this habit was formed. Habits are formed from repetition. When we consistently perform a behaviour in a specific environment, it becomes ingrained in our routine. This repetition creates neural pathways in the brain that make the behaviour more automatic over time. This formation is a powerful process because as mentioned above, habits can be beneficial or detrimental. Although, there are neural habits as well that may not have significant positive or negative impact on our lives. An example of a positive habit is brushing your teeth daily. Whereas, an example of a negative habit may be not getting enough sleep every night, or not having a good sleep schedule. 

How do we determine what makes a habit “good” vs. what makes a habit “bad”? Good habits are behaviours that contribute positively to our well-being, productivity, or personal growth. Such as, eating healthy, practising mindfulness, or reading daily. On the other hand, bad habits are behaviours that have negative consequences for us or others. These may be smoking, unhealthy eating habits, or excessive screen time. 

What can be done to transform or eliminate bad habits and possibly turn them into good habits? Firstly, you have to understand how habits work. This involves identifying cues that trigger the habit, finding alternative routines, and ensuring a rewarding outcome. This process also requires patience and persistence, so be gentle with yourself! Habits do not form overnight, nor can they be changed overnight. Like we reviewed above, habits form due to consistent behaviours. If you are committed to changing your bad habits, the same consistency needs to be done to transform your bad habits to good habits. 

Once you are aware of the habits that may be causing negative effects in your life, and you have now transformed these habits into good habits, it is essential to maintain them. What does this mean? Maintaining good habits may include being aware of potential obstacles you could face, rewarding yourself for committing to the good habit, and frequently assessing your priorities and goals. 

Tips on how to build a healthy habit: 

  1. Create a goal: This goal should be specific as possible and should include what you aim to do and how frequently it is done

  2. Create a plan: You may want to ask yourself some of these questions: Where will it be done? How often will it be done? Where can I fit it into my schedule? How will I reach my end goal? 

  3. Make it enjoyable and achievable for yourself!

  4. Ensure you have healthy social support 

  5. Be patient with yourself 

Good habits versus bad habits

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