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Bad Habits

RWC tutor Paula Rawlings defines bad habits, provides ways to get past them, and gives personal experience with dealing

Defining Terms

What are bad habits, why do we do them, and how can we stop them from controlling us? Simply put, bad habits are actions we do that are considered bad, unpleasant, harmful, or undesirable. They are behaviors typically driven by the brain's reward system. When we humor our brain’s reward system and engage in these habits, our brain releases feel-good chemicals like dopamine, reinforcing the behavior. Over time, these habits become automatic and pretty darn hard to break like stress eating, chewing your finger or toenails, or sucking your thumb. Come on. You’re in college now, people, but I get it. I have a few irritating habits of my own I would like deactivated. Thankfully, there is something we can do to better ourselves, but it takes effort.

"According to Andrew Huberman, Dr. of Neuroscience and professor at Stanford University School of Medicine, it does take a little reworking of the brain’s circuitry. Once a habit becomes reflexive (you don’t consciously think about the action) it is very difficult to break, but the moments following your expertly executed *place bad habit here* is the time to modify the circuitry by adding another activity—one you wish to replace the bad one with. Huberman says the reason why bad habits are so natural is because the neurocircuits send messages in a loop. The key to breaking this loop is by adding another activity which utilizes other circuits in the brain, thus breaking the cycle. Selecting an adaptive behavior not in line with the bad behavior links in time the new action with the bad behavior, which recruits other neurocircuits and other neurons that somewhat dismantle the sequence of firing that is associated with the bad habit. You are basically creating a double habit that starts with the bad habit leading you into a good habit. This creates a close enough mismatch that you will (someday) eventually be able to skip over the bad habit altogether and get to the good part, like dessert after dinner."

My Experience

Well, to prove this, I did try for over a month about a year ago to overcome a little something. It went well. I was good, but I enjoy my “habit” so much that I decided it wasn’t all that bad. It’s not offensive, illegal, socially unacceptable, or irritating to others. I just do it so often that I irritate but no one else seems to notice when I do it. Ah. You are wondering what this habit might be, aren’t you? Well, I must disappoint you because it’s for me to enjoy, you to never discover, and for my family to take to their graves.

Overcoming Bad Habits

If you are interested in learning more about how to overcome bad habits, or to learn how to develop some new good habits, consider visiting the link located in the source below.

Huberman, Andrew. “The Science of Making & Breaking Habits | Huberman Lab Podcast #53.” YouTube, 3 Jan. 2022,

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