bad habits

Are These BAD Habits?

Is there something inherently wrong about your actions, or are you a slave to your mind & body?

Do you consider yourself susceptible to bad habits?

If so, I’m going to talk about the so-called insidious nature of ‘bad habits’ and perhaps by the end of this article, you will see your habits in a different light.

As you sit there now, reading this blog, so you will start to notice and feel some similarities in which you conduct yourself day-to-day.

Firstly, I don’t believe that there’s anything inherently bad about anything. In fact I don’t believe in the idea of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ at all.

So for example, when you hear the phrase, bad habits, this would point to the typical cultural suspects: excessive drinking, smoking, drugs and so on.

But we have to look at these habits with context before we can conclude that they’re inherently ‘bad’ to us.

If you have told yourself you have a bad drinking habit, I want to re-frame the criteria that make you think about your behavior in this particular way. However, before we take a look into this, I want to give us all a reference point for what I mean when I say the word habit.

The Body on Autopilot

A habit is simply an automatic behavioral pattern in the body that you need not think about.

In this way you could rightly conclude that habits are unconscious or at least subconscious. Everyone (I hope), knows how to tie their shoelaces without thinking about it; and this frees up energy to think about other things whilst your body is carrying out a typical task.

As you sit there reading these words, let yourself gently rehearse the steps of tying your shoelaces. Imagine bending over, grasping both ends of each respective lace and going through the systematic steps in order to complete the task.

Look in reality, you don’t need to think about it, you couldn’t recite to me the steps of the tasks because your analytical mind doesn’t know it – your body does.

So much so, that if you had to teach someone how to tie shoelaces, I know for a fact ALL of you would physically act out the process to explain it.

You couldn’t verbally explain it without the physical cues!

This is because the habit or shortcut is in the body, so you have the spare energy to think about the upcoming tasks in the day such as meetings in the day or what you’re having for lunch.

In this instance, it could be surmised that this shoe tying habit is fairly convenient.

Let’s take another example, or rather let me ask you this:

Have you ever found yourself looking down at you phone – without consciously knowing the purpose behind why you took it out of your pocket?

In this example, the body has gotten so good at the movement of the task that it doesn’t need to refer back to the mind in order to execute it.

You might be sitting there, hearing my voice but looking at your phone right now, aimlessly scrolling with no intention behind your actions.

Hello? Are you in there? Or had your body hijacked your attention?

Back to Bad?

This is what we have to decide my friends.

Have you ever heard the expression – actions speaks louder than words?

Well they do, and consistent actions constitute what we call a habit.

Just for a moment, as you sit and read this, recall the events of your day and week. What actions remain constant in your weekly schedule? It is important to be objective and specific, it helps to write them down.

A typical day might look like – work 9/5, come home, watch TV/Netflix for an hour, make dinner, watch YouTube videos, shower and bed.

When we make objective observations instead of emotional judgements on them e.g. I always feel tired after work so I watch Netflix for an hour. We can start to piece together the sum of our actions, habits and character.

As you sit and read this, think about your list of typical habits or actions in a typical day. But I want you to think about them from the perspective of a stranger.

As you take on this new perspective, I want you to imagine what character the stranger might conclude through this observation.

This is a really effective exercise because as you sit there participating in this thought experiment, you will begin to become aware of certain habits that are getting in the way of your ambitions.

This can be quite a shocking revelation to awaken to the reality that your body has hijacked you and led you astray, away from the ideal person you would like to emulate.

And there in lies the question you must ask yourself when you postulate whether a habit is ‘bad’.

Ask yourself, is engaging in this particular action or habit taking me closer or further away from the person I want to be?

If you are ever unsure, ask the question.

As you read these words you will feel a resonance to what I’m saying and if you subscribe to this, subscribe to me.


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Clinical Exercise Scientist

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