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Why bad habits feel SO GOOD?

We already know what is good and bad for us, but still why we tend to follow bad habits so easily?

As you are reading this article you might be thinking why I am reading this? You may be checking your latest social media post, thinking of which shows should I watch next, snacking or lying on the bed for no reason.

Before getting deep into this topic, let’s first understand more about bad habits.

What is a bad habit?

To me, anything we do which don’t have a positive return is a bad habit. Sometimes if we don’t do anything, even that’s a bad habit, for example, laziness.

If you’re too lazy to get out of your bed in the morning, go to the gym, unusual sleeping habits, unhealthy eating, lack of exercise, inactivity, drinking, and smoking habits – you simply have bad habits that you need to get rid of.

Don’t get me wrong, having bad habits doesn’t make you a bad person. It just makes you less productive.

We know bad habits are detrimental to our health. We all indulge in behaviours that we know aren’t good for us. Bad habits are so often that they have become a habit in our everyday life – even if we are well aware that they could have a negative impact on our health and well-being.

For example, you are at work and a stressful phone call can be very annoying. This may trigger you to eat an entire bag of chips. That bag of chips gave you a little satisfaction from stress. Even before you know that excessive snaking is unhealthy, it has already become a habit of craving junk food whenever you are under stress.

Maybe you smoke not because you want to look cool, but you are fatigued. You feel that smoking helps you to relieve your stress.

Let’s say I had two offers for you. The first offer was giving you 1,000 rupees today and the second offer was giving 10,000 rupees but only after 1 year. Which offer would you take? You are likely to take the first offer, even though you know you will get more money if you wait, but you don’t like the delay.

Instant gratification and comfort have always been our greatest enemies.

Why bad habits feel so good to us?

Many of us, are addicted to consuming content on social media and watching tv shows. We can’t just get rid of them by uninstalling the social media apps. Before we know it, we reinstall those apps in just one click and we are right there where we left off.

The main reason we resort to these behaviours is because bad habits give us the comfort we need when it comes to making decisions. Our brain can’t differentiate good from bad. It only knows comfortable and discomfortable.

Every action we take has a purpose behind it. Even if we are consciously aware of what that purpose is. The most common hidden purpose is comfort.

Our brains are wired to be reward based and our reward is the feeling of comfort that in turn triggers a release of dopamine (the feel-good hormone).

When you bite into a chocolate chip cookie, you get a hit of dopamine.
When you get a like on Instagram, you get a hit of dopamine.
When you hear your favourite song, you get a hit of dopamine.

The hit of pleasure causes us to crave more and so we associate this good feeling with the bad habits. Bad habits exist because they make us feel good. This explains why we continue to indulge in bad habits and find it difficult to stop it.

When things get tough, we take the easy way out. Smoking that cigarette on your work breaks causes your brain to associate that habit with freedom and relaxation. Drinking alcohol may be associated with relieving some tension after a hard week. The thought of exercising and making some kind of effort is overridden in your brain by the easier thought of sitting on the couch and watching your favourite show.

We also tend to rationalize our bad behaviours, if the society as a whole finds it acceptable, if a vast amount of people are doing the same thing, then it must be ok for us to do it too. It’s not difficult to find socially acceptable bad habits. Snacking, skipping exercises, getting blackout drunk, and even chain-smoking are things that lots of people do. This causes an inward rationalization when it comes to unhealthy habits such as “Just one more won’t hurt” or “I’ll do better next week.”

Dealing with bad habits

It’s important to remember that bad habits only give temporary comfort. Alcoholic beverages can only numb you to stress and after a buzz wears off the stressful reality returns.

Ironically, the long-term solution to break bad habits is in fact discomfort. The only way you grow is by stepping into the unknown. This is why so many people have a breakdown before breakthrough moments. The more discomfort you experience the greater the long term benefit will be.

Analogy is, the more you push yourself during a workout, the more sweat burn fatigue exhaustion you feel, the more strength endurance and longevity you gain. However, most people don’t change until not changing is the less comfortable option. Powerful transformation happens when you truly get out of your comfort zone.

Comfort is nothing more than an illusion. There’s no such thing as real comfort. There’s only the idea of what’s safe. This one is a big one to swallow but there’s no such thing as comfort which is why comfortable things don’t last long.

And think about this, why the most well-adjusted people are most comfortable in discomfort?

Don’t just go down the road, instead be committed to change. If you truly want the change to happen, go extreme on yourself.

Do take good care of your body and mind. We can achieve many things in life, we just need the right habits to make it happen.

Our whole life is set up in the path of least resistance. We don’t want to suffer. We don’t want to feel discomfort. So the whole time, we’re living our lives in a very comfortable area. There’s no growth in that.

David Goggins

Thank you for reading!

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