We tend to think of habits as good or bad, but most habits are neutral or just a part of who we are. We might not even realize that what we are doing is a habit of ours, so we don’t think about it.
Some habits are good, like eating healthy and exercising, while others are bad, like eating unhealthy and staying up too late. But most habits are neutral, and we don’t realize we even have them. Yet, we can also use habits to be better people.
If you’ve ever wondered if your habits were good or bad, keep reading as we will talk about why they are neither.
Are habits good or bad?
As a kid, I remember my mother telling me to be careful cause she didn’t want me picking up any bad habits. However, I’ve recently realized that I can use habits to accomplish things I previously thought were impossible. Then I think back on my day, and there are tons of actions that are repetitive but aren’t good or bad either.
From the perspective of psychology, “a habit is a more or less a fixed way of thinking, willing, or feeling acquired through previous repetition of a mental experience.”
Put more simply; a habit is something that we keep on repeating because we’ve gotten used to doing it. If you set your alarm to go off at seven every morning, before long, you will start to wake up without the alarm. With this repeated behaviour, you will have created a habit of waking up on time.
If you look at habits this way, there is nothing moral about waking up at seven; it is just that you need to wake up at seven to go to work or school.
Sometimes, we develop habits out of necessity or simply because they solve problems that we regularly experience.
Habits only become a problem when we develop them around destructive or dangerous behaviours. On top of this, it doesn’t even need to be the activity that is the problem. Eating a bag of chips isn’t too bad, but eating a bag of chips every day for a month is a problem.
At the same time, if you develop the habit of going for a walk after dinner, it might not make a difference after a day or two, but you may be much healthier in a year.
Habits themselves aren’t bad. Instead, it is the activity that is good or bad.
Can habits be harmful?
Of course, habits can be harmful, especially when they are hard to break. When I was younger, my mother told me how horrible it was when she smoked. She talked about how she tried to quit a few times, but it wasn’t easy. Eventually, the habit ceased, but in her memory, the habit was what mattered.
In high school, I would come home and eat a bowl of sugary cereal and watch TV. I did that for years and didn’t think about it; all the while, I was gaining weight and eating too much sugar. While that particular habit stopped, I’ve continued to eat junk food.
We can pick up harmful habits and not even realize they are a problem in the first place.
For myself, it took me many years to be more careful about the junk food I was eating, and that only happened because I was getting worried about my health.
Here are some examples of bad habits:
- Drinking daily
- Doing drugs all the time
- Eating junk food every day
- Staying up all night never getting enough sleep
- Picking your nose or biting your nails
Can habits be a good thing?
Good habits can be a great thing because they can encourage us to be more healthy and take better care of ourselves. We can also use habits to do things that we thought were impossible in the past.
For the last ten months, I have been riding my bike every day for 30 minutes; due to this habit, I have lost over 30 pounds. The thing is, I couldn’t have imagined losing that weight before I got started, especially after so many failed efforts in the past.
We can always use habits to improve our lives if we choose to repeat the right activities.
It is imperative to be careful about what we make a habit of as they will become a part of who we are.
Habits can be good because they make it easier to repeat healthy behaviours that, in the long run, make us stronger and more intelligent. Developing productive habits is the best way to get where we want to go and will make the process easier.
Do our habits define us?
In a sense, our habits define us because what we do every day is who we are. While it is nice to have good intentions and a desire to do good deeds, what matters is what we do, and most of what we do is a result of our habits.
While you might do a nice thing once in a while, if you tend to do mean things, that is what people will remember. Again, what we do sometimes is less important than what we do most of the time. Unfortunately, what we do most of the time is a result of our habits.
In the perspective of your health, if you consume junk every day and sit on the couch watching TV, you will be unhealthy. The reason is, both of those habits are destructive behaviours that, over the long run, contribute to bad health.
On the other hand, I am proud of myself for riding my bike every day; it feels good to be taking better care of my body. At the same time, people who don’t see my daily efforts might comment on my weight if they haven’t seen me for a while.
While our habits might be invisible to others, their results are not.
We can try to change our habits and have some success, but what we do most of the time will show, and that is what other people are going to see.
Why do habits matter?
Habits matter because they make us who we are; if we have healthy habits, we will see ourselves as a healthy person, and so will other people who see us.
What we do most stands out to the world, but it also compounds. I can exercise here and there, but if I do it every day, I will see the most significant results in time.
Habits matter because any significant change in our life will require continued effort, and the only way to do that is with a habit.
Regardless of what you want in your life, it will require changes to your behaviours and patterns. And while it is possible to make massive changes quickly and with a few actions, most changes require sustained efforts that are only possible with the development of a habit.
If you want to make a difference in your life, you need to look at the bad habits and replace them with good ones. At the same time, to develop better results, you need to build off of the good habits you already have and sustain them.
How do habits help us?
Habits help us by making it easier to accomplish big things with ease because they get us to focus on meaningful and repeatable actions.
If you want to change your life, you need to figure out where you are trying to go; from there, you need to figure out what steps you need to take. And finally, you need to work out which kinds of repeatable processes or actions will help you get there.
Once your needs and expectations are sorted out, it will be easier to sort out the types of habits you need to develop.
Having the habit of exercising every day made it easier for me to care about the food I was eating. In part, this was possible because once I started to work out, I was more conscious about what I was eating. At the same time, because I was working out regularly, the adverse effects of eating poorly stood out more.
If we want to improve our lives, it is possible with the development of good habits.
But we need to be sure that the habits we are building are actually what we want in our lives but are easy enough to keep them up.
In addition, if we want to improve our lives, it is helpful to look at the habits we already have and figure out if they are working with or against us. If we have a practice that undoes all our other efforts, everything else is a waste of time, so we need to deal with the problem immediately.
You can use habits to help improve your life, but at the same time, if you ignore the bad habits you already have, they will be destructive and work against your efforts.
What about your habits? Do you have good habits that you use to improve your life? What about your bad habits? What are you going to do to replace them with better ones?