Unlearning Bad Habits

Analyzing student experiences with unlearning bad habits


Photo used with permission by Krish Dev

Alex Zhang, Staff Writer

From nail biting to slouching, bad habits tend to have a large impact in an individual’s life. Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, a large majority of Americans reported developing new bad habits at home— habits they’ve been forced to unlearn. One study released by the American Psychological Association found a “rise in several unhealthy coping behaviors,” with 42% of respondents reporting weight gain and 67% describing a reduction in sleep.

In the MVHS community, students have expressed similar sentiments regarding unlearning bad habits from quarantine. Whether it’s an addiction to energy drinks, late night snacking urges or even impulse online shopping, the struggle against bad habits seems to unite students from all backgrounds. 

For junior Lance Fuchia, the bad habit he picked up over quarantine was a reliance on energy drinks like Red Bull and Monster Energy to stay awake and finish his work. 

“I would drink basically everything so I could complete my assignments at 3 a.m. in the morning or get that last push in before a big test,” Fuchia said. 

But things reached a turning point when he was confronted by his parents about the stack of empty energy drink cans in his room. In those moments, Fuchia reflected how he needed  to change.

Junior Vincent Zhao described a similar confrontation with his family members. Due to a large workload, Zhao would often find himself eating unhealthy snacks to satisfy late night cravings. While Zhao felt that the intervention from his family was initially awkward, he feels grateful that they were ultimately able to help him develop healthier eating habits. 

“I’m definitely grateful that my family cared enough to talk to me about it because I think that relying on them was a big mental boost,” Zhao said. “Having to unlearn a bad habit by myself would be way more stressful.”

On the other hand, junior Rachel Chan had her moment of clarity after careful internal reflection. While reviewing her online shopping purchase history, Chan stated that “looking at how much money I spent each month on random online clothes definitely surprised me because I don’t think I was really aware of my spending habits until I looked at it all on paper.” 

To combat this expensive bad habit, Chan created a weekly budget to make sure her spending would be reduced. She took additional efforts like removing bookmarked shopping sites on her computer and actively reminding herself to avoid impulse purchases. 

“I think that the hardest part of unlearning bad habits is honestly getting past the initial discomfort in the first week or so,” Chan said. “But creating a budget for myself really kept me accountable and made sure I was sticking to my goals.” 

Likewise, Fuchia echoed the importance of conscious mental reminders as a critical tool to battle falling back into old habits. He noted how it usually only takes a split second decision to break a bad habit or continue down the same harmful patterns. “The biggest thing I struggled with was not giving in to that momentary urge,” Fuchia said. “By constantly reminding myself, I was able to achieve small victories that absolutely paid off.”

Despite the common misconception of being able to immediately break a bad habit, Zhao states that the biggest lesson he learned from his experience was that unlearning a bad habit was a long term effort that likely would not happen overnight. 

“Breaking a bad habit is more of a marathon than a sprint,” Zhao said. “Each new day is an opportunity to set yourself on the right track and get one step closer to permanently breaking your bad habit.”