Stuck in habits: why we don’t help ourselves

We are creatures of habit, like birds and bees. The habits are functional, as long as they don’t cause us problems. Photo by Viktor Talashuk on Unsplash

We are creatures of habit.  Our bodies protect their default position ruthlessly, steadily.  Our bodies fear change.

When we get heavier and heavier, our bodies are stuck in the repeated action of eating for comfort.  The short-term comfort of eating is greater than the long-term comfort of health, and so we repeat, and repeat, experiencing thousands of short-term comfort hits.

When we get less and less active, our minds are stuck in the repeated action of social media checking.  The brief dopamine hit of seeing familiarity online is greater than the long-term reward of a bigger project, so we repeat, and repeat, reading thousands of posts, and watching hundreds of videos

You will have your own version of this madness.  It’s a kind of normalised madness, the constant repetition of small habits.  Don’t get me wrong – these behaviours are functional.  They are similar to the habitual acts of birds, or the flower-visiting of bees.  We are only exercising our evolved mannerisms as biological beings

If you are happy doing this, then carry on.  Nothing wrong with it.


But if you feel you have problems, then it is worth analysing how you might change your habits to better match your desire to remove your problems.

If you are bored, or trapped in an endless round of isolation and sameness, then you might want to look at building new habits that suit you better.

We don’t help ourselves, usually, because it is easier to stick with old habits than to generate new ones.

But we are built with thinking minds, and those minds are tools with which we can be clever with ourselves.


We can’t easily eradicate the habit instinct itself.  But what we can do, is adapt our daily timetables in order to encourage new behaviours.

Start with the thin end of the wedge.  If you want to exercise, then five minutes, initially, is better than no minutes.  If you want to do a new project, then one task, to get it started, is better than eternally waiting to start.

And we can use our social instinct.  We can find like-minded people who want to achieve similar things, and use the group effect to help motivate ourselves.


It is a function of our biologically evolved selves that we are creatures of habit.

This can lock us into problematic lifestyles, characterised by overeating and inertia.

In order to solve our problems, we don’t need to throw out these tendencies towards habit in some mad dash for chaos.

Instead, we can use our thinking skills to make our habit-forming nature work for us, not against us.

In addition, we can use social connections to motivate ourselves into new ways.