Why Are Bad Habits So Hard To Break

bad habits eating

Bad habits: We all have them, and some of them are more destructive than others. Some of us fall into them purely by chance, and some of us pick them up when going through difficult periods in our lives. They can be a real problem, not only to ourselves but to others too, especially those we live with. So, what can be done about them?

Well, the answer is misleadingly easy: Quit the bad habit in question.

Of course, it isn’t that simple. Many of us would like to break our bad habits, but we struggle when trying to do so. This is why many people fail to achieve their new year resolutions, and this is why many people live with these bad habits for much of their lifetime.

So, why are bad habits so hard to break? There are a number of reasons why, and we will include some of them below. Chances are, you might be able to relate to what we say.

#1: Bad habits can make us feel good

If bad habits didn’t make us feel good, we probably wouldn’t fall into them anyway. We are thinking of smoking, drinking, and comfort eating as examples. They can all help relieve the tensions we are feeling, and for a few small moments before regret sets in, we can enjoy the habits in question. 

So, what is the solution here? Well, one answer is to find reassuring alternatives. If a person chooses to vape or eat a healthier snack instead, they might experience some relief from their stresses. However, there is an underlying issue that we need to discuss, and that is the following. 

#2: Some bad habits are addictive

Vaping can work for some, but those who are addicted to nicotine might struggle to resist the pull of smoking. The same applies to those who might try to eat healthier. While it’s common sense to eat less chocolate or fewer cakes from the store, it can be hard to give up when there is an addiction to sugar. Alcohol is also addictive, and drugs, both legal and illegal, can also be hard for many people to wean themselves away from them.

Breaking free from an addiction is difficult because our brains adapt to what we are taking. It becomes a psychological as well as a physical problem, and you can learn more about the causes of addiction here. Thankfully, we don’t have to be beholden to our addictions forever, as it is possible to break free from them. However, because of the physical, mental, emotional, and biological factors behind an addiction, it is difficult to do alone. This is why counselling centres are so useful, as well as treatment centres that offer specialist help with certain addictions. If you’re struggling, your first port of call might be your doctor on your path to professional support.

#3: Stress can be a factor

We all go through stress in our lives, as there are pressures surrounding us left, right and centre! It can come from the lives we lead at work or at home, and so our obvious way to make ourselves feel less stressed is to do something to ease our anxiety levels. The trouble is, our bad habits are often the solution towards temporary relief. A day sat in front of the TV can take our minds off the troubles we are experiencing. A glass of wine can dull the pain and make us feel happy momentarily. And a sugary snack can give us some semblance of comfort.

These are all the wrong ways to combat stress, of course, so other solutions need to be found. When we have something else to fall back on, we will be less prone to those other things that could prove destructive to our health and wellbeing. Exercise can be helpful, as can talking to somebody. Breathing exercises and various forms of meditation can also help us to feel less stressed. Check out the article at the Mental Health Organisation on ways to manage and beat stress if you need help in this area. 

Don't Give Up

#4: We can give up too easily

As we have established, bad habits can be hard to break. And because of the difficulties involved, we can give up easily. We can then start to feel like failures, and a cycle of negative thinking can begin. Our low moods then defeat our attempts at self-motivation, and perhaps to relieve ourselves of the way we are feeling, we might fall ever deeper into the bad habits that bind us. Sound familiar?

So, how can we resist the urge to give up? Well, the support of others can help. If we have cheerleaders on our side, we might have the incentive to keep going. Family members, friends, and work colleagues could all become a part of our support network. 

We should also think about the consequences of our actions for others. Even when we think little of ourselves, we might be more motivated to give something up when we realise how we are hurting the people around us. Smoking is an obvious bad habit that can prove harmful to the health of others, but any habit that causes us to lash out because of our cravings can hurt people too.

Ultimately, there has to be the acceptance that we might need professional help. When we know we can’t beat our addictions alone, we might be less prone to beating ourselves up about them. A phone call to the relevant health care professional can be the first step to turning things around for ourselves. We will then be granted the tools and support that can help us succeed in our efforts to break our bad habits. 

#5: Peer pressure can be a problem

Do you remember when you were at school and you were encouraged by your friends to do something? They may have encouraged you to smoke, try alcohol, or partake of some other such substance that you knew deep down was bad for you. 

We can still feel peer pressure today. If our partner smokes or drinks, they might encourage us to join them. When we are in the social company of others, we can be tempted to have one drink too many if others are doing the same. We fall into peer pressure because others encourage us to do something we don’t want to do, or because we feel we should follow their example to fit in. It can be hard enough at school to back down from something but knowing that we can still fall into the same trap as adults is frustrating. 

What can we do? Well, as glib as it sounds, we should (to quote Zammo’s friends from Grange Hill), just say no! We have the right to do what we know is best, so we shouldn’t be beholden to any type of peer pressure. If you’re relating to this, it might be that you need to practice saying no in a role-play situation with a friend. You might also want to find a new set of friends if you are struggling to resist the influence your current friends have on you. There is some more advice in this article on adult peer pressure, so have a read and seek further advice online.


These are just some of the reasons why bad habits can be hard to break, but there will be others that we haven’t covered here. Still, no matter the reasoning behind our habits, the same thing remains true. We must seek help, especially when our willpower is too weak. So, think about this for yourself, and if your other efforts to give up aren’t working, find support. Bad habits are hard to break, but with the right strategy in place, giving up doesn’t have to be impossible. 

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