Top 20 bad habits to quit right away

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Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken. Warren Buffett


Scientists have found that our habit-making behaviors affect a part of the brain called the basal ganglia, which plays a huge role in the development of emotions, memories, and pattern recognition.

We all have a lot of bad habits, such as binge eating or late-night cravings, sleeping less than 7  hours a day, not exercising, etc. These bad habits can impact your health in a very bad way in the long term so it needs to be broken which is a difficult task.

Why are bad habits hard to break?

Bad habits are not formed in a single day. Your brain’s “reward system” is a brain circuit that causes you to feel good when it’s “turned on” by something you enjoy like eating good food or being in love. Whenever this reward circuit is turned on, your brain makes a habit that’s worth remembering and repeating. Once this repetition is long enough it becomes a habit. If that habit happens to be something that is bad for your health or dangerous it becomes difficult to break.  

How do bad habits affect your life?

Certain habits which were not as bad when you started them when you were young can be dangerous later. One such is smoking and drinking which can lead to many health issues later in life like cancer, diabetes, heart problem, lung problems. The habit of not exercising or eating junk food is another big contributor to diseases. It’s easy to say one needs to lead a healthy life but in order to achieve it, you need to make sacrifices which are not easy. 

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People pick up the bad habits because,

  1. Peer pressure. If some of your friends are smokers then it’s easy to become a smoker. The same is true for drinking habits. So choosing friends wisely is necessary yet it’s a difficult task.
  2. Curiosity -Curiosity killed the cat is true for bad habits. Many first time drug abusers become heavily addicted to drugs, smoking, and drinking habits which becomes a liability later in life. 
  3. Media influence. Media also influences and unnecessarily gives wrong pictures thus encouraging bad habits like fast food and drinking.
  4. Ignorance. Most people don’t know what is right for them. So they make wrong choice
  5. Absence of hope.Absence of hope is rare but a valid argument to have a bad habit.

According to a recent survey, these are the top 20 bad habits that are bad for you:

  1. Smoking. Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Smoking also increases risk for tuberculosis, certain eye diseases, and problems of the immune system, including rheumatoid arthritis.  Some people smoke as ‘self-medication’ to ease feelings of stress. However, research has shown that smoking actually increases anxiety and tension. Nicotine creates an immediate sense of relaxation, so people smoke in the belief it reduces stress and anxiety.
  1. Drinking too much coffee. Moderate caffeine consumption has been associated with improvements in energy, mood, weight, cognition, and physical performance. However, too much caffeine may cause headaches, anxiety, trouble sleeping, irritability, respiratory issues, chest pain, thirst, and frequent urination. 
  2. Drinking and driving. Drinking and driving can cause accidents that lead to injury, brain damage, and even death. Drinking and driving is also a crime. Drunk drivers often pay significant fines, may lose their license, and face higher insurance costs.
  3. Driving too fast. Driving too fast increases the probability that you’ll lose control of the vehicle. It also increases braking distance, reduces the effectiveness of safety belts and increases the chances of severe injuries if there is a crash.
  4. Excessive drinking. Excessive alcohol drinking can lead to the development of chronic diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver failure, and digestive issues. Excessive drinking habits can reduce your work effectiveness and you can lose a job because of non-performance. 
  5. Eating fast food. Eating a poor quality diet regularly, like junk food, is linked to a higher risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and premature death. Eating junk fast food regularly can reduce the intake of high nutritious food that is needed by the body leading to chronic conditions. Fast food is particularly bad for kids. 
  6. Skipping breakfast.If you do not eat food in the morning, the body releases hormones that lead to hypoglycemia that compensate for the condition. If you have this condition and there is a  sudden rise in blood pressure, which can cause headaches and migraine attacks.
  7. Stress Eating. Stress eating is also called emotional eating where you resort to food to deal with stressful situations. You may experience emotional eating at one time or another.Stress eating is bad for the body since you will eat without planning which can lead you to eat junk food like bags of chips or other fast food. Stress eating is the leading cause of obesity and depression. 
  8. Being with people who don’t appreciate you. If you feel unappreciated it can take a toll on your physical and mental health. You can also get negative thought patterns which can lead to anxiety, depression, and mood swings.
  9. Swearing. Swearing is good for health since by swearing you show extraversion and is a defining feature of a Type A personality. However it is negatively correlated with self-control, less agreeing and causing sexual anxiety.
  10. Avoiding eye contacts. If you are without a diagnosed mental health condition, avoiding eye contact means you are shy or lack confidence. Looking someone in the eye while speaking can be tough. Looking in eyes while talking also creates a bonding between speaker and listener that is beneficial to both parties.
  11. Overthinking. Overthinking is when you think or worry about the same thought repeatedly. Overthinking can increase worries and you may struggle to take action. Overthinking can also contribute to depression, anxiety, and other health disorders
  12. Procrastination. Procrastination is the act of delaying tasks until the last minute. It can cause reduced productivity and miss out on achieving targets. If you procrastinate for long you can become disillusioned with your work, which can increase the chance of depression and even job loss.
  13. Being disorganized. You could be disorganized because of perfectionism, lack of skills, as well as mental health conditions. Being disorganized can negatively impact your personal or work relationships. Your disorganization, unfinished tasks may increase stress that can lead to depression.
  14. Engaging negative self talk. Negative self-talk  example is “I’m such an idiot, I will never get a job.” which may not be correct but it’s feeding your brian wrong things. Negative self-talk can be damaging to your confidence and bad for your brain. Negative-self talk feeds anxiety and depression, increases stress levels and lowers self-esteem. This can decrease your motivation as well as greater feelings of helplessness which is bad for both personal and professional life. 
  15. Spending too much time on social media. Spending too much time on social media is bad for your brain. If you watch social media the algorithm will bombard you deep inside the fake reality. If you spend the majority of your time on social media, it’s time for a break. Not to sound like a parent, but social media can be harmful to your mental health.
  16. Watching reality TV. Reality TV like Big Boss typically only shows inappropriate behavior targeting the younger generation. It often promotes drama, aggression and bullying behavior. In reality real life is far from those violent dramas and backstabbing bad behavior.
  17. Too much gaming. Excessive video gaming can be bad for mental and physical health because you are not getting physical exercise. And you are in constant condition of hyperarousal from gaming. Hyperarousal can mimic PTSD that makes you bad at real life communications, managing emotions, controlling impulses and tolerating frustration.
  18. Taking too much stress. Chronic stress can suppress your immune system and reduce your ability to defend against infections. Persistent stress can also increase the probability of  several chronic diseases, including heart attack, stroke, blood pressure, depression. A study found that 60 to 80 percent of all doctor’s office visits may be stress-related.
  19.  Not drinking enough water. If you are dehydrated, you often put excess pressure on the heart to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the vital organs because of  lower blood volume. If blood volume is lower, your brain may not function optimally leading to headache. 

How to bring to an end a bad habit

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Step #1: Understand the habit loop. The Habit Loop is a neurological loop that governs your habit. The habit loop consists of a cue, a routine, and a reward. “Understanding these elements can help in understanding how to change bad habits or form better ones.” – Duhigg, C.

Step #2: Isolate the cue. The cue is the trigger that kicks off the habitual behavior. By experimenting with different rewards, you can isolate what you are actually craving, which is essential in redesigning the habit. 

Step #3: Change the routine. Schedule your new habit at the same time of day in the morning. Write down your new habits in a calendar. Reward yourself for sticking to a new good habit. 

Step #6: Reward yourself! Any progress is a success.

It can take 18 to 254 days for you to form a new habit.  Also an average of 66 days for a new good behavior to become automatic.

Interesting facts about habits

  • Habits are the energy saver. Habits help us to work on  autopilots. Habits allow you to do day to day work easier to complete without much effort.  They let you work automatically, like brushing teeth, driving your car while your mind is free to do other things.
  • Over 40 percent of what you do is habitual. Increasing what you do habitually, can even be a tactic if you wear only blue jeans and a few t-shirts so you don’t waste precious mental energy on his outfits.
  • You never forget the habit. It also means that a stressful phase can send you back into old smoking habits even if you quit years ago.
  • It takes 66 days on average to change a habit. 

How do I rewire my brain for new habits?

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“Associate every new behavior with a previous behavior.” The idea is to use that cue to create a new, healthier habit. For instance, you might want to take a few deep breaths every time you crave a cigarette or drink water instead of a soda.


Habit is learned which can be easily changed if you try and give it a chance. However bad habits are there for a reason. You need to kick off and start to remove the above 20 bad habits to be successful and live a fulfilling life.

By John Gurung

A former software developer who is now a blogging enthusiast. A true digital nomad.

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