BY ADI RAMAN '23
It’s Monday morning. You shut off your buzzing alarm. You tell yourself that you’ll break out of this habit, only to repeat the routine the next day. Mornings pass in a hamster wheel rotation as you endlessly hit “snooze.” This habit, like all others, rests at the crux of what makes us human. Referenced in popular media and found in our everyday lives, people rely on habits when they crave stability. However, there’s a fine line between adapting to your circumstances through habits and becoming overly reliant on them. Often, humanity limits itself by only adapting habits for personal comfort.
Comfort is a subjective concept found in many forms. For example, lingering in bed in the morning is very tempting, as you evade responsibilities while shrouded under cozy covers. People may develop this habit because they have adapted to the relaxation of sleeping throughout the night. Similarly, big changes in a person’s life, such as moving or starting a new job, feel uncomfortable because they have already developed habits in their previous place of residence or employment. Or, when a loved one passes away, people can also lose comfort in the form of emotional reliance. They have developed habits of love, memory-making, and familial bonds with this person, so the loss of those habits often leaves people devoid of warmth they had with them.
Popular media often represents unhealthy habits developed after distressing situations. For example, Tove Lo’s hit song “Habits” takes place after a breakup, and it describes the singer repeatedly drinking excessively, overspending, and participating in other activities that are socially frowned upon or jeopardize her health. Tove Lo has been forced out of her habitual reliance on her former partner and instead adapts unhealthy habits to “fill the void.” However, this comfort is only temporary because her unhealthy habits are not sustainable.
To end the detrimental habit of adaptation, one must become comfortable with being uncomfortable. This begins with the simple action of acknowledging one’s harmful habits but not dwelling on them to feel overly remorseful. Oftentimes, extenuating circumstances such as mental illness can inhibit one’s ability to break out of a habit; in that case, it is imperative to address one’s mental health and continue doing so while breaking those habits. Once the groundwork has been laid out, a person must commit to forming more productive habits. The NCBI reports that practices require at least 66 days for the human psyche to fully accept them, so consistency is key. Some effective strategies include using tools like habit trackers, which visually tracks progress as tasks are checked off. These trackers show that habit breaking—and creating—is a process, so that advancements can also be rewarded. On a broader level, finding an accountability partner can also be beneficial, as having someone with whom to celebrate victories and acknowledge missteps creates a comfort of its own.
While old habits may die hard, they can also give rise to new ones that do not perpetuate a dependence on comfort. Since life forces people to adapt to circumstances and form habits, it’s important to acknowledge that habits should simply be approached in a different way if they are causing harm. People have revolutionized the planet by adapting to positive routines, and it’s never too late for an individual to follow this path.