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Are Habits Harmful or Helpful?

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Biting your nails, waking up at 7 a.m., drinking a soda with each meal and taking the same route to work each day are common habits we form purposely or unintentionally. Depending on your outlook, habits may be harmful or helpful to your lifestyle.

Habits are routine acts ingrained over time until the act seems involuntary. Some of these acts are beneficial, like buckling your seat belt and brushing your teeth. Other habits are deadly, such as drinking a 24 - pack of beer solo every night.

Overall, are habits healthy or harmful for our overall well being?

You may be thinking it’s not that black and white. There are forms of beneficial habits and destructive habits. My research focused on the core principle of a habit versus a routine. Are daily routines healthy? You decide.

Writer Karen Chaffee said there are ways to achieve balance between healthy and harmful habits. She said routines, to an extent, are necessary for a sane life. “Life is full of change and unpredictability, and routines can provide us the sense of security that comes with knowing what will happen and when,” Chaffee said. Routines and habits clean up chaos and establish organization and predictability.

However, habits and routines can make you feel trapped in a rut. Chaffee said that habits can be harmful personally because they can create excessive predictability which can suck out one’s interest and passion for day to day life.

“Some people are so adamant about sticking to ‘the routine,’ that it becomes a full-blown stress when anything disturbs it,” Chauffer said. “You can count on disturbances! They are a part of life. But these people have forgotten how to think outside the cherished routine.”

Psychology Today blogger Ian Newby-Clark said whether harmful or helpful, habits affect more than just you and your daily routine. “Just as we develop habits to make our lives easier, so to those same habits influence others' lives and their habits. And, their lives get easier too!”

Amidst change, habits are initially harmful. “When you start to change one of your habits, it will be disturbing to those around you. After all, they've come to expect certain behaviors from you and now they can no longer expect them…Your attempt to change a habit means that others will need to work at their lives too. They might even grumble and resist.”

However, “Humans are incredibly adaptive creatures,” Newby-Clark said. Those affected will eventually adapt to your change especially once the change become a habit itself. In no time, your old habit will seem odd and foreign.

The bottom line is: balanced habits and routines make life easier. However, they create short-term harm when changed because those affected experience discomfort due to the unknown.

Ultimately, the key to having balanced habits is to use establish them in your life to prevent chaos, yet make sure those routines are flexible enough to allow for joyous day-to-day spontaneity. Don't get bogged down by possible short-term discomfort of changing your habits.


The Negatives and Positives of Having a Routine by Karen Chaffee

Creatures of Habit Blog by Ian Newby-Clark

Add a Comment4 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I've got something nice to say. Nice typeface. That's about it.

March 27, 2010 - 12:15pm

Wow!! I just read the comment by unknow author. The thing to remember is we are not hear to judge a
persons writing style or make improper comments.If something bothers you , and you want to express your feelings-please do so in a nice manner. Or follow the old saying "If you can not say something nice, just don't day anything at all". This is my own personal guide to being polite. If this is being an old fuddy-dudddey, then so be it. Sincerely. Lioness111

March 27, 2010 - 5:16am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to lioness111)

Here's a critique on your writing style. Two exclamation points should never be used, you misspelled unknown and used the wrong version of here. Second, what's an improper comment, you dolt? The people other than you have all been right, you just want a vapid author to have her feelings shielded. Welcome to comments, they're where you put down honest opinion. It's called free expression, live with it.

March 30, 2010 - 2:23pm
EmpowHER Guest

Why does this article even exist? Habits can be both good or bad? Really? You just changed my life because evidently I'm a moron.

March 26, 2010 - 4:04pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.