If you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering whether you’re doing something out of genuine desire or habit. You’ll often hear that humans are creatures of habit, and this is true. That’s why we are so likely to develop habits and addictions. We find pleasure and comfort in our habits, and so we keep doing them. This is as true for drug addiction as it is for using social media.
But even if your habit is completely benign, it’s better to have full control over your actions. The first step is recognizing the habit. The next step includes measures to cut back.
Here are 6 signs that indicate you’re developing a habit.
1. This thing has become a priority
Time is the greatest indicator of importance we have because there are only so many hours in a day. How many of them do you spend on this habit? Whenever you’re spending time on this, you’re taking time away from something else. You could be taking time from family, friends, work or just working on yourself. If you realize that the rest of your life seems to be suffering for this practice, it’s probably a habit that you need to break.
2. It makes you feel good
The brain is wired to seek reward, so if you’re doing too much of something that’s rewarding, you may actually become addicted. We know this happens all the time with drugs and alcohol, but it’s also common with social media and sugary foods. In most cases, the activity isn’t all sunshine and rainbows all the time, but there’s enough of a physical reward to obscure the negative consequences and keep you coming back for more.
3. Increasing prevalence
Do you find yourself performing this action more often today than you did a month ago? If so, there’s a good chance you’re becoming addicted. Think about someone who starts drinking socially and becomes an alcoholic. There’s an in-between period where drinking is clearly becoming a problem. This is the best time to stop, if you can. The same holds true for most addictions. It’s better to stop sooner than later.
Have you experienced any consequences because of this action? Maybe your girlfriend left you because you wouldn’t stop looking at your phone when she was talking to you. Or maybe your kids are afraid of you because you get loud when you’re drinking. If you’re experiencing consequences to your actions, there’s a good chance you have developed a habit that you need to break.
5. Plans to quit
If you’re always following a start-tomorrow diet or making New Year’s resolutions to quit smoking, you have a habit. It’s clear that you know you have a habit because you’re making plans to stop. Unfortunately, you never actually get there, so you just keep putting it off for another day. When you never make a real effort to stop your habit, you’re fostering the illusion that you can “stop anytime.” But when you don’t put that promise to the test, you can never truly be sure.
6. You have trouble stopping
If you have a habit that’s turning into an addiction, you’ll have trouble stopping. This is probably what you experience when you put it off for another day, but if you get anxiety, anger or other bad feelings when it’s actually time to stop, you have a problem.
In the case of alcohol, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re an alcoholic. You may be a problem drinker on her way to alcoholism. If at all possible, stop your habit now before it gets worse.
It’s good to have healthy habits like exercise and meditation, but if you can identify any habits that are detracting from your wellbeing, consider cutting them out. It doesn’t matter whether you do it once in a while or every day, if it’s not promoting wellbeing, it’s unnecessary.