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Why Bad Habits are so Hard to Break

Do you find yourself making the same mistakes over and over again?

  • You keep being attracted to the same guys that treat you badly

  • You find yourself being talked into things you don’t want to do

  • You have too many drinks despite telling yourself – ‘Never again’ – the next day when you have a hangover.

  • You crave chocolate and cake

What’s worse is that you KNOW you are doing it.

Self-awareness just isn’t helping. you beat yourself up despite knowing you are doing it!

Breaking old habits and forming new ones is more difficult than you realise, so being frustrated with yourself isn't going to help. You will only feel rubbish and failure and as a result, you stop trying to change

Why it's so difficult to change habits

When we encounter a new experience our brain has to make decisions. There is a lot of activity going on in the brain at this time. You have to analyse the situation carefully and then make conscious decisions on what to do, and the brain is learning the most effective course of action.

Imagine you have taken up a new hobby. Let’s use tennis as an example.

You have to learn how to -

  • hold the racket correctly

  • move your feet around the court

  • hit the ball successfully

  • learn the rules of the game

All of that takes time before you can do those things automatically, and only then can you play a match. It will take time, and you may fail many times before you get the hang of it, and your brain treats these movements as automatic and become embedded in the brain’s neural pathways.

This is the feedback loop behind all human behavior: try, fail, learn, try differently.

With practice, the useless movements fade away and the useful actions get reinforced.

The problem with this is that the brain doesn’t differentiate between good habits and bad ones. That’s one of the reasons why quitting smoking is so hard. (There are other contributing factors too where habits like smoking are concerned)

This means that we get into ‘bad’ habits quite easily.

  • You feel stressed – you eat chocolate

  • You get lonely – you respond to the first guy who shows you attention

Our brain has recognised that when we have a particular situation it draws on the habit that made us feel good – temporarily. Because the brain is always faced with new challenges and doesn’t have the capacity to deal with more than one at a time. The habits become automatic responses and are treated in the same way. So all those bad habits are often out of our awareness.

That’s the reason it takes so much time, energy, and practice to retrain your brain into new habits, overriding the old less helpful ones.

Being aware is a really great start, then we have to make conscious efforts to overwrite the habits formed in the neural pathways.


Identify the triggers which often relate to past experiences, noticing your behaviour and acknowledging they belong in the past.

Practice the new behaviours and healthier habits you want to adopt

Be kind and compassionate with yourself

If you need some help then get in touch -

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