Advertising
Advertising

We Do What We Know Is Bad for Us, Why?

We Do What We Know Is Bad for Us, Why?

We all know what a bad habit is. Smoking, eating unhealthy foods, excessive alcohol consumption and living a sedentary lifestyle are just some of the things that are drummed into us as behaviours we ought to avoid in order to increase our overall well-being.

Yet a study by scientists at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that in the year 2000, avoidable behaviours such as poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking and drinking alcohol were some of the underlying causes of nearly half of the deaths in the United States:[1]

  • Tobacco: 435,000 (18.1% of total US deaths)
  • Inactivity and bad eating: 400,000 (16.6%)
  • Alcohol consumption: 85,000 (3.5%)

If we know bad habits are so detrimental to our health, why do we continue to do them?

Why we can’t resist bad habits

We all indulge in behaviours that we know aren’t good for us and there are a couple of reasons why we continue these habits regardless.

Advertising

Bad habits give you the comfort you need

The first is our need to feel comfort and doing whatever it takes to reach this state.

Every action you take has a purpose behind it, even if you’re not consciously aware of what this is and 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 or the ‘feel good’ hormone.[2] This causes us to crave more of it and so we associate this good feeling with the bad habit.

This explains why we continue to indulge in bad habits and find it hard to stop; it feels comfortable and we essentially get to exist in our ‘safe zone’. In other words, you get attracted to the reward despite knowing it’s bad for you.

Smoking that cigarette on your work breaks causes your brain to associate that habit with freedom from work and relaxing, or drinking alcohol may be associated with letting yourself go and having a good time after a hard week. The thought of exercising and making some kind of effort is overridden in the brain by the ‘easier’ thought of sitting on the couch and watching your favourite TV programme. So you can see how easily the habit is connected with reward.

Advertising

Everyone else is doing the bad habit too

We also tend to rationalize our bad behaviours if society as a whole finds it acceptable. If a vast amount of people are doing the same thing, then it must be okay for us to do it too. It’s not difficult to find socially acceptable bad habits. Snacking, skipping exercises and even smoking are things that lots of people do.

This causes an inward rationalisation when it comes to unhealthy habits such as “just one more won’t hurt” or “I’ll do better next week, I’ve just had a stressful day today”. These in-the-moment justifications tend to be driven by the guilt of knowing we’re probably not making the best decision in the long run.

We also look outwards for examples that validate our bad habit decisions such as “my grandfather smoked every day and lived until he was 90.” Our minds love to find evidence that backs up our decisions, whether good or bad.

The consequences of continuing bad habits

Most people know the consequences of these types of habits. Warnings are plastered on cigarette packets about getting cancer. Governments beam healthy eating campaigns and the need to be more active through adverts and TV programmes. But what are the real long term consequences of constant bad habits?

Advertising

  • Cancers, diseases and cell damage
  • Unhappiness and depression
  • Negative physical well-being leading to pain or lethargy
  • Increased physical problems in later life

Most of these can be subtle and gradual meaning we don’t notice them and easily dismiss our decisions in the moment. But being mindful of the decisions we make today can keep our wellbeing topped up and constant while investing in our future selves.

For more examples of common bad habits and how to should stop them, check out this article: 13 Bad Habits You Need to Quit Right Away

How to stop these bad habits

It’s hard to stop habits that are so ingrained in our daily lives. With stress sometimes being the main trigger to a bad habit, the solution lies with reprogramming our mind. I have covered this in my other article How to Program Your Mind to Kick the Bad Habit, here let me briefly talk about the solution:

  1. Frstly, be mindful of what these habits are and how often we do them. What exactly triggers the habit? Is it an unconscious decision to do it? Question why you have developed this habit in the first place.
  2. Secondly, make a commitment to yourself that you want to eliminate this bad habit. Now you understand what may be triggering it, can you find something positive to replace it? For example, you reach for the chocolate after a hard day. Can you find a healthier reward snack? Or reduce the amount of times you’re allowed to have chocolate? Perhaps if stress is your trigger, try going for a run and give the brain another reason to release dopamine instead.
  3. Thirdly, be consistent. The key to forming new habits is consistency. Yes, it’s hard for a while but your brain soon adapts to new ways of doing things until it starts to feel natural to you. Turn your reward system into a way to celebrate sticking to your new positive habits instead.

It’s all about conditioning yourself to a new, positive way of thinking.

Advertising

Living a happier, more positive life starts with the habits we choose to form. Be mindful of which direction your habits are pointing and start changing your mindset to one of investment into your health and well-being. It’s not just for your future self but also living in the moment in a positive and healthy way.

Featured photo credit: freestocks.org via pexels.com

Reference

[1] The Jama Network: Actual Causes of Death in the United States, 2000
[2] Neroscientifically Challenged: Know your brain: Reward system

More by this author

Brian Lee

Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

7 Best Project Management Apps to Boost Productivity How to Set Ambitious Career Goals (With Examples) How to Answer Behavioral Based Interview Questions Smartly 100 Incredible Life Hacks That Make Life So Much Easier 10 Best New Products That People Don’t Know About

Trending in Mental Strength

1 How to Deal with an Existential Crisis and Live a Happy Life Again 2 How to Cope with Empty Nest Syndrome and Be Happy Again 3 How to Stay Consistent and Realize Your Dreams 4 How to Make a Positive Change for a Fulfilling Life 5 How to Live Your Best Life Starting Today

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on July 13, 2020

How to Deal with an Existential Crisis and Live a Happy Life Again

How to Deal with an Existential Crisis and Live a Happy Life Again

As human beings, we are capable of extraordinary things. We have the power to endure extreme physical and mental lengths while welcoming life’s most unexpected challenges, hardships, and check-ins. Sometimes life gets the best of us and then begins the long journey to rise up again.

These huge and deep revolutionary life check-ins happens to every single living person – all 7.3 billion people on this planet, which most of us call an existential crisis.

In this article, I’ll explain what an existential crisis is and how to deal with an existential crisis to live happily again.

What Is an Existential Crisis?

An existential crisis is when you begin to question your life’s purpose or what the purpose of our existence as a whole. These moments tend to surface when we are feeling stacked up against the wall as the emotions of stress, defeat, and unfulfillment arises and the yearning to know life’s biggest answers continue to grow deep within us.

Other times, it’s the feeling of misplacement or when the thoughts of failure continue to dig into our minds, and the answers that we’ve been seeking for have not yet been found.

The thing is – the big answers to life are always subjective to a person, and that itself is perfectly okay.

There’s no right or wrong answer to go about this, but here are some ways in how to deal with an existential crisis and live a happy life again.

What Causes an Existential Crisis

There are different matters that provoke the heart that can then lead to emotional outbursts or distress.

Advertising

Always remember that people define having an existential crisis differently, and a variety of matters can trigger them. Here are some examples:

  • Feeling socially misplaced in an environment or peers
  • Domino effect of failures transcending at once
  • Over-exhaustion of mental energy
  • Losing a loved one
  • Not being “where you want” in life

One of the most common causes come from feeling invisible or unwelcome by a certain group or environment.

Part of life is being integrated within a community, and sometimes the feeling of our existence comes from the acceptance of outside forces. Our place in society is reinforced by the attention we receive from other people, and as a result, we being to question our successes, happiness, and even our purpose in the world. Little do we realize that those questions harden the compassion we have for ourselves because they are overruled by self-created pressure and stress. Stress is a response to threat in a situation, so ask yourself if the stress is self-inflicted.

Is Existential Crisis Takes Place Once in a Lifetime?

We do not only go through one, but multiple existential crisis in our lifetime.

By noticing that there may be an underlying pattern, you are able to take that control and lead a life fulfilled by happiness and ease. It just takes answering some internal questions and reexamining your trigger points that may help bring some answers to the surface.

Having an existential crisis weighs heavily on one’s mind and spirit. Although it can be subjective to a person, it’s safe to say that many people have come across this “check-in” not once but multiple times in their life whether it be because of a breakup, change in career, death of someone, and even in the midst of reaching milestones.

How to Deal with an Existential Crisis

1. Check-In with Your Ego

The ego has the power to navigate your mind

and your thought process only if you allow it. Of course, ego is a natural human element, and it comes down to how much and how loud that ego speaks.

Advertising

There’s a game that ego likes to play and that game is called the comparison game. It paints a picture in our thoughts into two things main things:

  • Where we should be and what we should be doing based on society’s standards.
  • Where we should be and what we should be doing based on our personal visions of success.

Understand that there is nothing wrong with setting goals and having high standards, but there is a difference between having an “ego-driven” vision versus a “value-driven” vision.

After spending some time thinking about what success means, ask yourself – are these successes aligned with my values or am I just running the rat race?

2. Surround Yourself with Positive People

They say misery likes company, but if you’re feeling down and defeated, it’s best to surround yourself with positive people with high vibrations.

This is not only to be exposed to high energy, but also to learn different coping mechanisms from others. Everyone deals with emotions differently and if something is not working in your favor, it never hurts to try to find an alternative route.

3. Dive into the 5 W’s

When dealing with an existential crisis, it’s best to tackle the root of it all. Try by asking yourself the 5 W’s – who, what, when, where, and why we you feel like you’ve come to this point.

  • Who – Who were you prior to this existential crisis (were you working out regularly, were you involved in a community sport, etc.)? Who did you surround yourself with? Who do you go to for advice or encouragement, who makes you feel negative about yourself?
  • What – What were some events that led up to this point both professionally and personally? What environment were you in? What’s the energy like? What values stay true to you and what has changed over the years?
  • Where – Where do you want to go from here? Where do you picture yourself in your happiest state? Where do you put most of your time and energy throughout the day?
  • When – When do you have free time for yourself? When do you get ready for the day ahead? When did you feel you started having an existential crisis? When did major events occur in your life?
  • Why – Simply and compassionately ask “why” for everything. This article can help you dig deeper

The simplicity of the word “why” is to help you become self-aware and learn more about yourself. We spend more time getting to know others by having dinner with people, coffee, or hanging out, but how often do we do that with ourselves?

Get to know yourself as if getting to know another friend. Ask these questions with compassion and thought, and the root may be much easier to find.

Advertising

4. Measure Accordingly

Look at how you’re measuring your goals and successes. Are they time-sensitive?Are they achieved by a certain age? Or are they set by financial limitations?

Goal setting is important to achieve the things we want in life, but it’s always important to not only get attached to the time-frame, but stay focused on the goal itself.

Most times, people are pressured and attached to the idea of time that then translates to stress and unfulfillment.

5. Quiet the Chatter

Quieting the chatter goes beyond moving away from physical distractions and inner dialogue – it’s also about quieting the things that consume your energy.

If you find yourself emotionally drained from listening to gossip, then stray away from it. If you feel your energy is depleted when you find yourself working on projects that aren’t aligned with your values, then challenge yourself to find other projects that you find joy in doing.

Your time is valuable.

6. Give Yourself 10 Minutes

“If you don’t have 10 minutes, you don’t have a life,” – Tony Robbins

Your personal time can get washed away in the long day-to-day listing of things, and 10 minutes can seem like a long amount of time.

Advertising

How often do we also spend 10 or even 30 minutes mindlessly scrolling on our phones or spending that time on tasks that are of less importance?

Prioritize your time and find a hobby that can be integrated into a daily routine and away from the screens. It can be meditating, journaling, drawing, listening to music, or gardening.

While we live in a world where information is constantly at our fingertips, we’re quick to indulge in a huge amount of information without letting our brain digest. Having at least 10 minutes to let ourselves breathe can ground us for the rest of the day ahead.

Final Thoughts

An existential crisis is something that happens to the best of us, but there’s always a way out of it. It’s a matter of taking some time for reflection and surrounding yourself with people who can bring you back up again.

Always remember that your time is valuable and that you should only be going through life at your pace and your pace only. It’s also a point in ourselves to reset and start fresh with a new perspective and a new brewing friendship with ourselves.

After all, one can’t be happy with others and external outcomes without first being happy with ourselves.

More Tips for Living a Fulfilling Life

Featured photo credit: Jake Melara via unsplash.com

Read Next