What Causes Unhealthy Habits?

Dr. Joseph McCloud
March 1, 2024
10 minutes

Do you know what causes your unhealthy habits? Do you have at least one? Come on, everyone has at least one. Cracking your knuckles? Smoking? Drinking alcohol? These are all considered unhealthy habits.

Most of us would like to get rid of our unhealthy habits. But doing so is not easy. It takes a lot of will and discipline.

Exploring the reasons behind unhealthy habits could make it easier to ditch them. Once you know what’s causing them, you can address them at the root and keep them from happening. This article will discuss common causes of unhealthy habits so you can determine what’s behind your negative behavior.

Poor Mental Health

Stress, anxiety and depression are some of the biggest drivers of bad habits.

When you feel stressed or depressed, you may indulge in unhealthy foods because they provide some level of comfort. Or you may crack your knuckles for the momentary feeling of relief. Or maybe you procrastinate to avoid doing something that causes you stress.

Many people also pick up addictive habits to deal with stress and depression. For example, they may smoke, drink, or do drugs to self-medicate. While these habits may provide temporary relief from negative feelings, they do more harm than good in the long run.


Boredom can also breed bad habits. When people have nothing better to do, they may smoke, drink, take drugs, or overeat.

However, those with good mental health will not engage in these habits as often. In most cases, they will find a more productive way to use their time.

On the other hand, people who are bored and experience poor mental health are looking at a dangerous combination.

How to Get Rid of Unhealthy Habits

Once you understand what brings on unhealthy habits, you can take steps to change your ways. Here are some things you can do to promote more positive behavior.

Replace Your Bad Habit with a Good One

The best way to get rid of a bad habit is to replace it with a good one. For example, if you get stressed, you may want to eat an entire box of cookies. Instead of eating the cookies, take a carrot stick.

If you find yourself drinking and doing drugs often, consider taking up a healthy hobby like art or music. In addition to replacing bad habits, these activities promote relaxation and creativity.

Limit Your Access

You may be able to limit your access to the tools that are helping you indulge in your unhealthy habits. For example, if you tend to eat fatty foods, get rid of what you have in your home and stop shopping for them. You can do the same with drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol.

Enlist a Friend

A friend can keep you accountable for cutting back on your bad habits. This strategy will be even more effective if the friend has the same bad habit you do.

For example, if you are trying to stop smoking, you may enlist the help of a friend that also wants to stop smoking. The two of you can think of what you can do instead of smoking. You can celebrate victories together.

Try Stress Relieving Exercises

Many bad habits are related to stress. Stress-relieving exercises will address them at their root.

There are various stress-relieving exercises you can try including:

  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Breathwork
  • Practicing mindfulness
  • Talking about your feelings
  • Engaging in activities you enjoy

Try various methods to find out which works best for you.

Surround Yourself with Positive People

It will be difficult for you to break unhealthy habits if you surround yourself with people who also engage in them. For instance, if you are trying to stop drinking, you shouldn’t go to a bar and hang out with others who drink.

Instead, you should surround yourself with people who don’t drink. More than that, you should hang out with those who are aware that you are trying to overcome a bad habit. They will watch out for you to ensure you don’t indulge. They will encourage you to move forward with healthy living.

Hanu Health Can Help

The Hanu Health app can also help you overcome bad habits. The app can recommend therapeutic exercises that replace unhealthy habits helping to promote healthier living.

Unhealthy habits can have several negative consequences. Once you identify stressors, you can replace your bad habits and move on to healthy living.