The 7 Most Common Bad Habits and Why They're So Hard to Break


"Old habits die hard" is a popular adage that holds weight. Everyone has their vices, but some habits are extremely common. And there are explanations behind why these habits are so hard to break. They may be impulsive behaviors, feel-good tendencies, stress reducers or even based in biology. Here are seven common, unfortunate habits that are difficult to break with willpower alone. 

1. Nail Biting

Of course, nail biting is not a dangerous habit, but it is not particularly appealing either. And no one wants to be 30-years-old and still gnawing away at his or her fingernails. For some chronic biters, nail biting can become almost like a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder-"pathological groomers" — is the term used to describe people "for whom normal grooming behaviors, like skin picking or hair pulling, have become virtually uncontrollable." There are some tricks to break this bad habit. For one, try keeping your nails short so that biting loses its appeal. There are also bitter nail coatings that deter biting. You could also try wearing band aids or gloves to avoid giving in to the habit. 

2. Playing With Hair

Especially among girls with long hair, either splitting ends or twirling hair is a common habit that is extremely hard to break. For some, playing with hair is a nervous or anxious habit that provides a source of comfort. For others, it becomes more of an impulsive behavior and arises out of boredom. Splitting dead ends is actually unhealthy for hair because it damages the strands and prohibits hair from growing. One of the best ways to break this habit is to give your hands a distraction — such as a stress ball or silly putty — so that you do not feel the urge to automatically reach for your hair. 

3. Using "Ummm" And "Like" Frequently in Speech

Saying words like "umm" "uhh" and "like" often while speaking is a habit that plagues many of us. Why? It is a natural reaction to reach for one of these words in our inventory when we're lacking the right phrase. Psychologists call these words "disfluencies" and say that they mean "more than clumsy speakers having trouble expressing themselves." According to ABC News, Herbert Clark of Stanford University and Jean Fox Tree of the University of California at Santa Cruz concluded these disfluencies also serve as conversation signals — the phrases signify that the speaker needs the listener to realize he or she is delaying speech and the speaker wants to avoid an awkward, silent gap in conversation. It's easy to catch when other people are guilty of the habit, but not so easy to keep track of our own tendencies. Next time you're at a loss for words, don't give in to using "ums" and "uhs." Instead, pay careful attention to your sentences, take a second to reclaim your thoughts and then continue with the correct words. 

4. Snacking Late At Night

Snacking after dinner is a trend that many people fall victim to, but studies show that late-night eating is tied to both weight gain and sleep deprivation. The habit is a product of biology: in fact "the journal Obesity found that the body's internal clock, the circadian system, increases hunger and cravings for sweet, starchy and salty foods in the evenings." In addition, boredom and the desire to snack on something while watching our favorite late night TV shows doesn't help the habit. While the tendency to snack after hours might be innate, there are tricks to resist the cravings. Nutritionists recommend keeping a food journal, which will "keep you aware and honest, and can allow you to identify unhealthy patterns." In addition, eating healthy, sufficient meals is one way to satisfy cravings and avoid binge snacking on unhealthy foods later in the day. Finally, break associations between certain activities such as snacking during TV commercials. It sounds difficult, but instead of snacking during commercials, nutritionists recommend you "use those breaks to get small tasks done — fold laundry, iron, pick out your clothes for work the next day, load or unload the dishwasher, or groom your pet."

5. Avoiding Eye Contact

At one point or another, we've all been guilty of shying away from making eye contact while having a conversation. For some people, however, avoiding eye contact can become a terrible habit; without even being aware of it, the body language signals bad manners and a disinterest in conversation. In addition, breaking eye contact is often an indicator of insecurity or anxiety. It may seem insignificant, but studies suggest that people who make eye contact with others while speaking are perceived to be more personable, likable, skilled, trustworthy and confident. Simply being more conscious of your body language and making an effort to keep your gaze during conversation is the first step to break this habit. 

6. Skipping Breakfast

It is a common habit to skip breakfast in the morning. Some people rush in the morning and simply don't make the time to assemble breakfast, while others believe skip breakfast to avoid the calories. Studies suggest, however, that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, healthy for the brain and the body. According to the Huffington Post, breakfast improves focus and performance and helps jump start your metabolism, making it more efficient for burning calories throughout the day. Set your alarm a few minutes earlier to carve out some time for a quick and nutritious breakfast like eggs and whole wheat toast, Greek yogurt or oatmeal. 

7. Cracking Joints

Have you ever cringed at the sound of someone cracking their knuckles next to you in a quiet, public place? It is a hideous noise trumped only by the sound of a neck cracking. Old rumors that cracking joints leads to arthritis have been laid to rest. Regardless, cracking joints is not a pretty tendency, and it is one that irks bystanders. For many people, cracking joints is simply a feel-good tendency. Cracking joints is relieving because the act "causes small air bubbles that form between the sacs in the joints to pop." Instead of cracking your knuckles, however, try stretching or massaging the joints in your fingers to relieve tension and stress without resorting to the nasty habit of cracking.