Indulging in our vices can be comparable to walking the tightrope in a circus. One slight move, and we either deprive ourselves altogether or develop a bad habit. It can be as simple as enjoying one slice of pizza as compared to the whole pie or one cocktail as compared to finishing off an entire bottle of alcohol. It’s hard enough to stay balanced on our own. More often than not, those around us can make it even more difficult.
In order to avoid picking up bad habits from others, you first have to become self-confident enough to remain in control and exercise your willpower. But of course, there’s no denying that the best way to do that is to surround yourself with positive people who are at the very least encouraging and supportive, and in the best case engage in healthy activities themselves.
This type of atmosphere will be great for your mental clarity, self-esteem, and ensure your overall well-being by avoiding harmful indulgences.
On our own, most of us tend to have that innate sense of what is right and wrong or what is good or bad for our well-being. But when friends or peers or even family are around us, self-control goes out the window. And bad habits run rampant. Staying strong and avoiding joining in takes some practice – and mindfulness.
Why (And How) Do We Pick Up Bad Habits From Others in the First Place?
If you engage in something every once in a while, it may not necessarily be that big of a deal. But once it becomes a habit no matter how trivial you think it is, it’s often going to be harmful to some extent. For example, that entire pizza pie has the potential to ultimately lead to binge eating, which turns into obesity and endangerment to your health.
It may be harmless once, maybe twice, but as the habit develops, it’s a problem. And surrounding yourself with people who regularly participate in that kind of behavior is setting yourself up to fail.
How Do Bad Habits Start?
A bad habit often begins with one person and gets passed on from that point. Generally, a bad habit starts because that single person feels that the instant gratification that they receive is greater than the potential reward of saying “no”. At first, the action is not viewed as a ‘bad habit.’ However, the positive feeling makes the person want to continue the practice.
After a prolonged period, a person’s mind becomes addicted. Not necessarily to the thing of which they’re engaging but the amazing feeling they achieve, making it challenging to give up the practice. At this point, it has ventured into being a bad habit, but even then, that person may not see it as such.
Differentiating Indulgences from Habits
Friends, peers, the family have a significant influence on each other, often serving in some capacity as mentors, people that most of us look up to, and with whom we enjoy spending our time. Even if you may not realize it’s happening, most gatherings, especially during the holidays, are spent overindulging whether it be in rich foods, alcohol, gossip, all of which could construe as bad habits.
Fortunately, this is something that happens one time each year. We may feel a little bloated and ready to hit the treadmill, of course, but not everyone walks away from the holidays feeling terrible from eating to the point of weight gain, drinking to the degree of hangovers, fighting with family or close friends.
If you were to partake in these gatherings every day, you would be exposed to other people’s bad habits and would most likely, as would a majority of people, take them as your own. Those around you whom you love are indulging, and you don’t want to appear to be a drag. That is the response many people give when there is a group activity taking place, and they ‘can’t say no.’
Even though it’s unspoken and these people care for you with no intention for harm, this is peer pressure. And in some cases, we bring it to ourselves.
Avoiding Peer Pressure
Peer pressure does happen and is responsible for a lot of people of any age taking on bad habits in which they usually wouldn’t engage. The thing with peer pressure is that it often can be resolved with simple communication.
In a lot of instances, the people you love, whether it be friends or peers, aren’t aware of how you feel because you simply don’t express it. If someone truly cares about you, merely letting them know that the behavior is not something you enjoy, and you don’t want to participate should be enough for them to respect your choice. Perhaps, your good influence can help them in breaking their bad habit.
For cases where you confidently tell your friends that the things, they’re participating in don’t interest you and they choose to demean you, these are not friends.
Being prodded into participating in activities that you don’t want to do implies low self-esteem and a lack of control. Some people feel it’s easier just to join in, so those whom we consider being close to us don’t become angry.
Instead of standing up for your safety and well-being, you choose to put yourself at risk to keep them in your life even though they are not suitable for you. And in so doing, their bad habits become yours.
How I Managed to Avoid Peer Pressure When I Was 12
I felt like throwing in a personal example here, which I hope will motivate you. Feel free to comment and also throw in more ideas on how to handle peer pressure, I’m sure many of you were able to come up with creative solutions in the past. Let’s share our experiences and benefit from each other’s insights!
So, here’s the story. When I was about 12 years old, most of my friends started smoking in order to look cool and older. I wasn’t really attracted to smoking, but I started to feel the pressure. I was always the outsider and didn’t look as cool as the others because I refused to smoke.
One day, as I was feeling the growing peer pressure and was afraid that I would give in soon, I came up with one simple idea. I decided to make a bet (with myself) that I wouldn’t smoke until I was 18. I felt like, until then, smoking would have lost its appeal as a means to look older. A few days later, I talked about this decision to a close friend of mine, and he decided to jump in and make the same bet with me.
This worked wonders. I now had a strong story and reason not to smoke until I was 18. And, just as I had foreseen, smoking lost its appeal when I reached this age. Actually, be then, my close friends who were addicted by then were trying to quit. Smoking had become quite an expensive habit for youngsters who were about to leave the parental nest and study…
You’re Engaging in a Bad Habit. Now, What?
What is the key to breaking the bad habits that you pick up from various people around you? Remove yourself out of the toxic environment as soon as possible. It doesn’t matter what behavior you’re engaging in or where it’s taking place.
There is nothing that you can’t eliminate for the sake of you. It may not necessarily be an easy process, and it may take some time with you needing to develop considerable strength. Remember, being aware that there is an issue, to begin with, is the first sign of a strong person.
But generally, you also need to learn to focus more on yourself, in order to avoid picking habits from others that may not be benefitting you.
What If These Peers Are My Family?
In some cases, a family may be the source of our bad habits, which makes change especially difficult. In my opinion, there are a couple of ways to go about it.
1. Build up a strict rule for yourself
Here I’d like to invite you to try out the “betting” strategy I used when I was 12 in order not to start smoking. That’s a perfect example, because, back then, I was literally surrounded by smokers at home. My mom and my older brother (who started early on, around age 13, when I was 10) were smokers.
I love my family, and there is no way I could have taken distance from them just because they were smoking. That’s where “gamifying” the process of habit creation came in handy.
How did I do it? Well, first, I had to figure out WHY I was starting to find smoking attractive. It was fairly easy to see that it was because it would make me look older, and hence, cooler in the eyes of my peers.
This insight was crucial to me, because, on second thought, I realized that what REALLY would make me look older was to make a more MATURE decision than my peers. So, my logic became: “I’m cooler and older BECAUSE I don’t start smoking”.
And when I was telling this to others, even my peers couldn’t agree more! It worked wonders for me.
2. Be the change you want to see
Another way to go about it is to see yourself as someone who sets the best example for your family. GOOD habits are contagious, too. And showing your family how much benefit there is to NOT pick up bad habits starts with you.
No matter how old you are, you can influence your family for the better. You don’t need to be preachy. You can simply start by setting an example. The more positive results you get from your good habits, the more your family will want to jump in.
You can also be somewhat more strategic about it and find at least ONE ally in your family who is willing to have healthier habits with you. Together, you will be stronger and have more impact on the other family members.
3. In the most extreme cases, take some distance
The problem is, in order to escape certain demons, we have to make heartbreaking choices to save ourselves. And those people don’t make walking away any less wrenching.
If the bad habit is negatively impacting your life, it’s vital to really ‘see’ those who are exposing you to it as part of the problem – as difficult as it is, you have to move beyond the emotional ties to move forward and release yourself.
Developing new resources for support is especially crucial in creating a healthy life. Getting involved with a support group or an online site that may potentially coincide with your situation would introduce you to people you can share experiences with and possibly develop new friendships.
Finding support is the ideal way to help you work through and break an unhealthy habit. People going through the same thing could offer alternative solutions that you may not have considered.
A habit is a learned response to stimuli in your environment.’ Sometimes those ‘stimuli’ are ones we love. No one is born wanting to have these tendencies, and if we can learn to take them on, we can learn to stop them.
Self-authoring and journaling can be great ways to avoid picking up bad habits. When you feel compelled to start this new bad habit, what’s best than to strengthen your decision through inner dialogue or even by talking to yourself, presenting the arguments against it.
Research shows that these techniques are extremely powerful and will increase your likelihood of becoming the person you want to be.
A Fresh Start
Make sure that you take the time to remove all the triggers from your life. You may find it beneficial to leave and start fresh, whether it be moving to a new city, a different state, or even going off to a new country. Or you may choose to stay right where you are, confront your habit and take care of things right here at home. We all see a fresh start a little differently.
It’s critical to know that there is a future out there ready to evolve into something healthy and bright. You have an incredible capacity to change bad habits into more powerful, useful ones with which you can influence other people.