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Discover the top unhelpful habits everyone should quit and learn how to break free by following our ultimate guide!

50 Bad Habits: Top Unhelpful Habits Everyone Should Quit

Aug 10, 2023

By Will Moore

We all have habits that hold us back. Whether it's procrastinating, mindlessly scrolling through social media, or indulging in unhealthy eating, these bad habits can keep us from reaching our full potential. Often, we don't even realize the impact these behaviors have on our lives.

This article is here to help you identify and quit 50 of the most common bad habits. By letting go of these unhelpful routines, you can make room for positive changes and a more fulfilling life. Let's explore these habits and learn how to break free from them, one step at a time.

How do you know if something is a bad habit?

Well, there are a few signs.

For starters, you're probably doing it more than once. A bad habit is something you repeat over and over again without even realizing it (or trying to stop). Second, if your behavior hurts other people or yourself—even if it's unintentional—it might be time to make some changes to break bad habits.

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Some bad habits are easy to spot while others aren't. The most important thing to realize is that even if you don't think a bad habit is hurting anyone else, it could be harming you. It's easy to get stuck in a cycle of negative thoughts and negative behaviors sometimes, but breaking free from them will make you a much better person overall. At times, stepping out of comfort zone can help you replace bad habits with good habits.

Here are a few ways to know whether something you're doing is holding you back.

Doing things that slow you down in life

If something is holding you back, it's not helping you.

When we feel stuck in life, it's often because we've become complacent doing things that don't really challenge us. Most of the time, bad habits are to blame.

There are other times when we pour an enormous amount of time and energy into tasks, jobs, and relationships that go nowhere. These are things that don't really match our personal core values, but we keep doing them anyway because they feel familiar and comfortable. We might think they're important because other people say so or they pay the bills, but if it's holding you back, it's a bad habit.

Doing things that add no value to your life

Things like wasting time on social media, doing impulsive buying, spending too much money, and watching too much TV, can be a big problem for some people. It's easy to get sucked into a vortex of doing things that don't matter, but it's not healthy or productive. We need to take control of our time and energy by doing things that are important to us, things that make us feel empowered.

Doing too much of a good thing

Hard work, self care, and exercise are great habits, but if they become things that help you avoid major issues in your life, then they've gone to the dark side of bad habits. The same is true for people who stress over eating healthy because they think it will help them lose weight or help them live forever.

Living a balanced life is important, and good habits will always contribute to that balance. So, if any good thing in life starts to detract from the other good things in your life, it's time to make a change.

Doing things without realizing it

If you're on autopilot and don't even realize what you're doing, then it's time to take a step back and look at your life with fresh eyes. It is important to be present minded to avoid being on autopilot.

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Many bad habits stem from a lack of intentionality. If you don't know why you're doing what you're doing, then it will be difficult to change the habit. Take some time to think about why you do what you do, and then make a change. If you're not sure what your intentions are, ask yourself why. Then ask yourself if that reason is still valid in your life today.

Doing things to help you forget

If you find you're constantly distracting yourself with junk food, negative self talk, television, or other activities in order to avoid dealing with your problems, then start asking yourself why.

Filling your life with distractions could appear like productivity or adventure to others, but deep down, you're unhappy. You know that you're not really living. You're just going through the motions, and that's not good enough.

Good habits help you face challenges head on and make you more resilient in the face of tragedy, loss, and discomfort. Bad habits diminish you as a person and keep you running from the things you're afraid to confront.

50 Bad Habits List: Top Unhelpful Habits Everyone Should Quit

This 50 bad habits list is by no means exhaustive, but you might struggle with some of the activities listed below.

Bad habits can be difficult to break, but it's important to remember that they don't have to be permanent. If you have a bad habit that you want to break, don't be afraid to try something new. It may take some time for these new behaviors to become second nature, but eventually they will take over and old bad habit won't stand a chance.

1. Smoking and illicit drugs

These are common ways for people to cope with stress in unhealthy ways. They are bad habits because they can cause medical and mental problems and interfere with your day-to-day performance. Smoking is one of the major causes of lung cancer. Therefore, it is important one stay away from one of the most common bad habits.

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2. Overeating

Overeating is another unhealthy coping mechanism. It may be a way to distract yourself from stress, or it could be that you're eating because you're bored or sad. To stop overeating or stress eating, try to identify why you eat in the first place. If you realize that food is your drug of choice when feeling stressed out, then try some other ways of dealing with those emotions instead.

3. Saying “yes” to everything

Doing as much as possible can help you get ahead, but it will also leave you feeling overwhelmed and stressed out from spending too much time. If you're constantly saying “yes” to things that other people want from you, then it's time to start saying “no.” It might feel scary at first, but once you realize how much better your life is when there aren't dozens of commitments hanging over your head every day, then you'll finally feel the freedom to build a life that makes you happy.

4. Not taking time for yourself

Similar to the bad habit above, withholding personal downtime is a big mistake.

Taking time for yourself is important. It's not selfish; it's vital. If you don't take the time to recharge your batteries and renew yourself, then you'll run out of energy very quickly and end up resenting everyone around you. Or worse, your body could force you to stop with injuries or stress-induced illness.

5. People pleasing

It's easy to fall into the trap of people pleasing. You want everyone around you to be happy and like you, so you bend over backwards trying to make it happen. But this is a bad habit that's very hard to break because it makes you feel good in the short term.

It's a form of self-sabotage. You're not being true to yourself, so you end up feeling deeply dissatisfied which can lead to depression and other bad habits.

6. Procrastinating

Procrastination is a habit that's easy to fall into when you're stressed or overwhelmed. Your brain has learned that the best way to get rid of the stress or anxiety caused by a task is to avoid it by doing something else.

Like a car payment, you can't defer for forever - interest will accrue and if you put off payments long enough, your car gets repossessed. Procrastination works the same way, and the only way to beat it is to commit to getting it done. You can't just put it off until tomorrow, next week or whenever you feel like it. Instead, make a plan and stick to it - no matter how much resistance you feel.

7. Staying up late

You may think that staying up late will give you more time to get things done, but the truth is that it makes you less productive. It may also feel relaxing to decompress from a long day with social media or TV. But research shows that those activities deplete your willpower and lower your sleep quality if they extend long into the night when your body needs rest.

8. Sleeping in

Everyone needs extra rest after a week of hard work, so sleeping in isn't always a bad thing. But if your routine is to sleep your entire morning away or snooze your alarm until you have 10 minutes to get ready for work, then you are setting yourself up for failure in life.

Consider giving yourself plenty of time in the morning to wake slowly, enjoy a cup of coffee or tea, read, and develop a soul-nurturing morning routine. A perfect morning routine checklist can help you to build a morning routine.

9. Not getting enough sleep

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that sleeping between 7 and 8 hours each night can help boost your immune system and improve brain function.

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10. Doing every day differently (Avoiding routine)

Routine and predictability do wonders for your body, mind, and emotions. A life defined by impulsiveness and spontaneity might seem fun at first, but it will take its toll on your body over time. Therefore, it is recommended to have a proper daily routine to plan your entire day.

11. Being a workaholic

Overwork isn't healthy, either. It can lead to high blood pressure, poor mental health, and insomnia. Also, it will damage critical relationships in your life - relationships you need to be happy and fulfilled in life.

12. Excessive drinking

Alcohol is a depressant, so it can make you feel more relaxed and happy in the short term. But over time it can destroy your liver, kidneys, brain cells, and immune system. Drinking too much alcohol can also make you prone to accidents or poor decision-making.

13. Bad hygiene

This is a common reason people get sick. Poor hygiene can cause various infections and diseases, such as the flu or colds. It's also not very attractive - no one wants to be around someone who smells bad or has greasy hair.

14. Staying indoors

Never venturing outside is a bad idea. It's important to get some sunlight and fresh air every day, as this helps your body produce vitamin D and serotonin, which are both necessary for good health.

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Staying indoors can be stress eating also make you feel depressed, which can lead to other health problems. One must have some sort of physical activity to achieve health goals.

15. Lying

Lying feels like an easy solution in the moment, but the reality is that you will breed distrust with people around you. It also keeps you from learning key communication skills and being authentic, both of which are necessary for success and happiness.

16. Oversharing

We've all been guilty of it at one time or another, but it's important to realize that not everything needs to be shared with everyone. Give yourself boundaries and respect the privacy of others. Oversharing can also lead to people not wanting to spend time with you because they feel uncomfortable around you. You can come across as overbearing, self-absorbed, heavy, or a gossip.

17. Talking too much (in general)

You should listen as well as talk. If you are constantly talking without stopping to hear what others have to say, it can make them feel like they don't matter or that they aren't being heard.

18. Getting defensive

When someone criticizes you or tells you something that hurts your feelings, it's easy to get defensive and turn the conversation back onto them. This is an unproductive way of dealing with conflict and can make other people feel like they can't trust you or speak openly with you.

19. Listening to respond

When we listen to respond, we are not really listening at all. We are waiting for our turn to speak and then when it comes time for us to talk, we don't really hear what the other person says, instead using their words as fodder for our response.

It's very difficult to nurture deep connections with others or be a leader if you only ever listen to respond. Active listening requires you to ask questions, withhold sharing your perspective at first, validate others, and then offer concise, relevant feedback if necessary.

20. Blaming others

When we blame others, we are not taking responsibility for our own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Blaming allows us to ignore our part in the problem and avoid growing as an individual. When you blame someone else for how you feel or what has happened, you are really just trying to make yourself feel better by avoiding any uncomfortable self-reflection. 

Blaming is a way of shifting the focus away from your behavior so that you don't have to deal with any potential consequences or repercussions of your actions.

21. Avoiding conflict

You might feel like avoiding conflicts is a good way to keep the peace, but over time it will cause problems in your relationships with others. If you don't address issues as they arise, they can fester and grow bigger than if you had just talked about them in the first place.

22. Being disorganized

Being disorganized can cause a number of problems in your life. You may have trouble making decisions, keeping track of important information, and finishing projects on time. And if you're searching for something when you need it most, the stress can be overwhelming.

23. Overthinking

Overthinking can be harmful in a number of ways. You may worry too much about things that are out of your control or agonize over trivial details and fail to see the big picture.

Read About What Are Some Psychological Biases That Act as Barriers to Effective Decision Making?

This can be detrimental to your mental health, and it will most certainly hold you back from reaching your full potential and levelling up in life.

24. Dwelling on the past

The past is the past, and dwelling on it won't change anything. Instead of focusing on what could have been, try to look forward—you never know what great things might be just around the corner!

25. Ignoring Health Checkups

Regularly avoiding doctor's appointments or checkups can lead to undiagnosed health issues that could worsen over time. Neglecting your health in this way reflects a disregard for preventative care, which is essential for long-term well-being. Early detection of issues can often lead to simpler and more effective treatments. Regular checkups can also provide peace of mind, knowing that you are taking proactive steps towards maintaining your health. You can also read more about preventative habits.

26. Constantly Checking Social Media

This habit can not only waste hours of your day but also negatively affect your mental health. Comparing your life to the highlight reels of others can lead to feelings of inadequacy and anxiety. The constant bombardment of curated perfection can skew our perception of reality, making our own lives feel less fulfilling. It's crucial to set boundaries for social media use to protect our mental well-being and cultivate a more positive self-image.

27. Skipping Breakfast

Often called the most important meal of the day, skipping breakfast can lead to overeating later, slow metabolism, and energy depletion. It sets a poor tone for nutritional habits throughout the day. A nutritious breakfast kick-starts the metabolism and provides the energy needed for optimal performance throughout the morning. It can also set the stage for making healthier food choices throughout the day.

28. Neglecting Water Intake

Staying hydrated is crucial for health, yet many choose sugary drinks over water. This can lead to dehydration, impacting everything from your skin to your ability to concentrate. Proper hydration aids in digestion, improves skin health, and boosts cognitive function. It can also play a key role in weight management and physical performance.

29. Binge-Watching Shows

While occasionally indulging in your favorite series is harmless, excessive screen time, especially before bed, can disrupt sleep patterns and reduce physical activity levels. This habit can lead to feelings of lethargy and can negatively impact one's social life and productivity. Setting limits on screen time and prioritizing sleep can improve overall well-being and create space for more fulfilling activities.

30. Nail Biting

This nervous habit can damage the skin around the nail, leading to infections. It also looks unprofessional and can be a hard habit to break once established. Additionally, it can lead to dental issues and the spread of germs from your hands to your mouth. Finding healthier ways to manage stress, like exercising or practicing mindfulness, can help curb this habit.

31. Impulse Shopping

Buying things on a whim can lead to financial strain and a cluttered living space. It's often a temporary fix for emotional needs that can backfire in the long run. This habit fosters a cycle of instant gratification that undermines self-control and financial planning. Creating a budget and practicing delayed gratification can help manage impulse purchases. Read more about Impulse Purchase Cycle.

32. Gossiping

Engaging in gossip can damage your relationships and reputation. It's a destructive form of communication that thrives on negativity. Gossiping can alienate friends and colleagues, and it reflects poorly on your character. Fostering a culture of openness and positivity in your interactions can build trust and respect among your peers.

33. Not Setting Goals

Living without set goals leads to a lack of direction and can make it difficult to measure success or progress in life. One should learn how to set goals in life. Goals provide motivation and a sense of purpose, guiding your actions towards meaningful outcomes. Without them, it's easy to become stagnant and lose sight of your potential. Setting achievable, time-bound goals can help you stay focused and fulfilled.

34. Ignoring Mental Health

Neglecting emotional well-being and not seeking help when needed can lead to serious mental health issues. It's important to treat mental health with the same urgency as physical health. Mental health is foundational to overall well-being, influencing everything from our relationships to our capacity to cope with stress. Regularly checking in with yourself and seeking professional support when needed can prevent more severe issues down the line. Learn how to become mentally stronger.

35. Judging Others

Constantly judging people can close you off to meaningful relationships and opportunities. It reflects more on your insecurities than on others' actions or decisions. This habit can prevent you from understanding and empathizing with others, limiting personal growth and connection. Practicing empathy and open-mindedness can enrich your life and broaden your perspectives.

36. Eating Late at Night

Consuming heavy meals or snacks before bed can disrupt sleep and lead to weight gain. It's healthier to give your body time to digest before sleeping. This habit can also lead to indigestion and sleep disturbances, which affect your overall quality of life. Establishing a regular eating schedule that ends several hours before bedtime can improve sleep quality and digestive health.

37. Spending Too Much Time Alone

While solitude can be rejuvenating, excessive isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression. It's important to find a balance between alone time and social interaction. Humans are inherently social creatures, and meaningful connections are crucial for emotional well-being. Actively seeking out social activities and maintaining relationships can ward off feelings of isolation.

38. Resisting Change

Being closed off to change can hinder personal and professional growth. Embracing change is essential for adapting and thriving in a constantly evolving world. One should know the art of getting out of comfort zone. Change can be uncomfortable, but it often brings new opportunities and experiences that contribute to our development. Cultivating flexibility and openness can make transitions easier and more rewarding.

39. Always Being Late

Habitual tardiness shows a lack of respect for other people's time and can negatively impact your professional and personal relationships. Being consistently late can also stress you out and rush your activities, reducing your own quality of life. Planning ahead and allocating extra time for unexpected delays can help you be more punctual and respectful.

40. Not Reading

Failing to engage with books or continuous learning can stunt personal growth and limit your worldview. Reading expands knowledge, empathy, and critical thinking skills. It exposes you to new ideas and perspectives, fostering creativity and understanding. Setting aside time for reading regularly can enrich your mind and life in profound ways.

41. Ignoring Environmental Impact

Not considering the environmental impact of your actions, such as excessive use of plastic, contributes to pollution and climate change. Many daily conveniences come at a high environmental cost, which can lead to long-term negative effects on the planet. Adopting more sustainable habits, like reducing waste and conserving energy, can make a significant difference. Educating oneself about environmental issues and taking small, actionable steps towards sustainability can lead to healthier ecosystems and a better world for future generations.

42. Constant Complaining

Habitual complaining can negatively affect your mood and the mood of those around you. It creates a cycle of negativity that's hard to break. This behavior can push people away and hinder personal growth by focusing on problems rather than solutions. Cultivating a mindset of gratitude and looking for positive aspects in situations can help mitigate this habit. Finding constructive ways to address concerns can improve your outlook and interpersonal relationships.

43. Comparing Yourself to Others

Constantly comparing your journey to others' can lead to dissatisfaction and undermine your achievements. Focus on your own path and progress. This habit can distort your self-perception and detract from your happiness. Everyone's path is unique, and success is personal. Celebrating your own milestones and focusing on your growth can foster self-esteem and fulfillment. Practicing self-compassion and setting personal goals, rather than measuring yourself against others, can lead to a more content and motivated life.

44. Skipping Exercise

Regular physical activity is vital for health, yet many find excuses to avoid it. This can lead to a sedentary lifestyle, affecting both physical and mental health. Exercise not only improves physical fitness but also mental well-being by reducing stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms. Finding an activity you enjoy and incorporating it into your routine can make exercise more appealing. Setting realistic fitness goals and gradually increasing activity levels can help build a lasting habit that boosts overall health and energy.

45. Not Asking for Help

Pride or fear of appearing weak can prevent people from seeking assistance when they need it, leading to unnecessary struggles and isolation. Admitting you need help and reaching out can actually be a sign of strength and self-awareness. Support from others can provide different perspectives, solutions, and emotional comfort, making challenges more manageable. Cultivating a support network and learning to be vulnerable can enhance resilience and personal growth.

46. Holding Grudges

Holding onto anger or resentment harms your mental health and can strain or destroy relationships. Learning to forgive is key to emotional well-being. Grudges can weigh heavily on your heart and mind, leading to stress and unhappiness. Forgiveness does not mean condoning wrongdoing but allowing yourself to let go of the burden of resentment. Practicing empathy and understanding the situation from the other person's perspective can aid in the healing process and foster healthier relationships.

47. Wasting Money on Non-Essentials

Spending frivolously, especially on items that offer no real value to your life, can prevent you from achieving financial goals or stability. This habit can lead to financial stress and limit your ability to invest in truly meaningful experiences or save for the future. Prioritizing spending on essentials and values-aligned activities can lead to greater satisfaction and financial health. Creating a budget and tracking expenses can help identify areas for improvement and foster a more mindful approach to spending.

48. Relying on Convenience Foods

Frequently opting for processed foods over preparing fresh, nutritious meals can have a long-term negative impact on your health. These foods often contain high levels of sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats, contributing to chronic health conditions. Learning basic cooking skills and planning meals ahead can make healthy eating more convenient and enjoyable. Investing time in preparing meals can also be a rewarding way to care for your physical well-being and develop a healthier relationship with food.

49. Multitasking Excessively

Trying to do too much at once can decrease productivity and increase stress. Focusing on one task at a time is more efficient. Multitasking can dilute your attention and lead to more mistakes, requiring additional time to correct. Establishing priorities and dedicating specific times to focus on each task can improve efficiency and reduce the urge to multitask. Breaking tasks into smaller, manageable parts can also help maintain focus and a sense of accomplishment. Find out is multitasking a skill?

50. Ignoring Personal Relationships

Not investing time and effort into personal relationships can lead to loneliness and disconnection from those who matter most. Strong relationships require regular nurturing and communication to thrive. Taking relationships for granted can result in weakened bonds and a diminished support network. Making an effort to connect regularly, showing appreciation, and being present during interactions can strengthen ties and enrich your life. Remember, quality time is the foundation of lasting relationships.

Trap of 50 Bad Habits: Impact on Life, Health, and Productivity

The Prevalence of Common Bad Habits

Common bad habits are often a core part of our daily lives, and many individuals struggle to break bad habits. These habits can range from procrastination and snacking to excessive screen time and poor sleep patterns. Despite being aware of their negative impacts, people find themselves trapped in these behaviors, affecting various aspects of their lives.

Impact on Life and Well-being

Bad habits can impact an individual's life and overall well-being. Procrastination can lead to missed opportunities and increased stress, while eating junk food or too much red meat can contribute to weight gain and reduced self-esteem. Engaging in excessive screen time can disrupt interpersonal relationships and limit meaningful connections. The overall effect of these habits can leave individuals feeling dissatisfied with their lives.

Impact on Health

Bad habits take a toll on physical and mental health. Poor eating habits can lead to nutritional deficiencies and health issues. Additionally, inadequate sleep from irregular sleep patterns negatively affects cognitive function, mood, and overall health.

Impact on Productivity

Bad habits also have a profound impact on productivity. Constantly checking social media hampers productivity. Procrastination leads to missed deadlines, lack in efficiency, and reduced productivity. These habits prevent individuals from reaching their full potential and hinder professional growth and success.

Step 1: Identify the underlying failure habit and choose a personalized "golden habit."

To understand this better, let's consider an example. Meet Alex, a 35-year-old professional who often finds himself feeling stressed and overwhelmed due to poor time management. He frequently procrastinates and struggles to meet deadlines, leading to missed opportunities, deadlines, and increased anxiety.

Alex takes the first step of the process and identifies his underlying failure habit; procrastination and poor time management. He understands that this habit is hindering his productivity and affecting both his personal and professional life.

Now, it's time for Alex to choose his personalized "golden habit." After some self-reflection, he realizes that he is most productive and focused when he starts his day with a morning workout routine. Physical activity helps him clear his mind and boosts his energy levels for the day ahead.

Alex customizes his golden habit based on his unique personality, and preferences. He knows that he enjoys being active and that exercise aligns with his values of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Additionally, this habit fits seamlessly into his lifestyle as he can go for a jog or do a home workout before starting his workday.

By choosing this personalized golden habit of morning exercise, Alex is confident that he can break free from his bad habit of procrastination and time management issues. He knows that starting his day with physical activity will ensure a good start to the day, leading to improved focus, productivity, and overall good mental and physical health. This habit becomes enjoyable once he integrates into his daily routine, increasing the likelihood of its long-term success and improving mental health.

Step 2: Customize the golden habit using behavioral science or gamification techniques to make it obvious, easy, and fun.

Now that Alex has chosen his personalized golden habit of starting his day with morning exercise, he must customize it using behavioral science or gamification techniques to ensure lasting habit change.

1. Making the habit obvious: To make morning exercise more obvious and prominent in his daily routine, Alex sets a specific time and place for his workout. He places his exercise clothes and equipment right next to his bed, making it the first thing he sees in the morning. This visual cue serves as a reminder and increases the likelihood of following through with the habit.

2. Making the habit easy: Alex knows that if his morning exercise routine is too complicated or time-consuming, he might be tempted to skip it. To make it easy, he starts with a simple 15-minute workout at home. This removes any barriers or excuses that could prevent him from getting started. He gradually increases the intensity and duration as the habit becomes more ingrained.

3. Making the habit fun/rewarding/attractive: To add an element of fun and motivation to his morning exercise, Alex gamifies his routine. He uses a fitness tracking app that records his progress, sets fitness goals, and rewards him with virtual badges for achieving milestones. He also joins a fitness challenge with friends, adding a competitive and social aspect to his workouts.

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By using these strategies, Alex makes sure that his golden habit of morning exercise becomes obvious, easy, and fun. He encourages others to start with one strategy initially and gradually add more as needed to tailor the habit to their preferences and ensure lasting habit change. The best method to achieve this is using habits stacking or habits loop. By customizing the habit to align with their unique personality, preferences, and lifestyle, individuals can transform their behaviors and achieve positive and sustainable changes in their lives.

Conclusion - Top Unhelpful Habits Everyone Should Quit

Identifying failure habits and choosing "golden habits" is the first step towards change. Customizing these 50 bad habits list using behavioral science or gamification techniques, such as making them easy, and fun, ensures lasting habit change.

To break free from the trap of most common bad habits, individuals must be mindful of their actions and take responsibility for their choices. By replacing detrimental behaviors with positive habits, like prioritizing self-care, setting boundaries, and managing time effectively, people can improve their overall well-being and lead more fulfilling lives and gamify lives.

Breaking common bad habits requires commitment, resilience, and patience. It's essential to address underlying emotional triggers and adopt healthier coping mechanisms. Taking small steps, staying consistent, and seeking support from others can make the journey to positive habit change more manageable and rewarding.

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Will Moore is a gamification, habits and happiness expert.

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