List Of 5 Most Unhealthy Behaviors To Quit ASAP

Toxic habits to quit right now

Millions of people are looking for ways to improve their health and wellness. But, knowing where to start remains a challenge.

Everyone possesses an unhealthy behavior of some kind. But have you ever wondered about how the most unhealthy behaviors may be affecting your life? Do  you ever wish that you could completely get rid or at least learn to manage them?

If so, you’re not alone. And fortunately, you CAN manage the most unhealthy behaviors. But, it does take some work.

Plus, to ensure that you don’t go back to your old ways, you’ll have to stay committed – even after you believe that everything’s under control.

List of the 5 most unhealthy behaviors

Unfortunately, unhealthy behaviors are so easy to start and extremely challenging to stop. This certainly rings true to the saying that ‘forbidden fruit tastes sweetest.’

However, even if you have a long history of any unhealthy behavior, you’re likely much better off without them.

Here’s the list of the 5 most unhealthy behaviors that you should consider quitting ASAP:

(1) Inactivity/Sedentarism 

(2) Alcohol use disorder

(3) Smoking 

(4) Chronic stress

(5) Unhealthy eating habits 

Related: Discover how to break toxic habits that affect your health and wellness. 

Unhealthy Behavior: Inactivity/Sedentarism

Sedentarism is defined as “the state of being sedentary,” which is characterized by a lack of physical activity. According to statistics, 60-85 % of persons have a sedentary lifestyle. And, about 2/3 of children are not active enough.

Actually, one study demonstrated that Americans sit for about 6.5 hours per day on average. Unfortunately, this unhealthy behavior negatively affects immunity, circulation, weight etc. (Searing, 2019).

In fact, a sedentary lifestyle has rapidly become the new normal in modern society and is one of the leading cases of disability and death.

According to the World Health Organization (2021), sedentarism is considered to be one of the most prevalent health issues in the world and results in 2 million deaths yearly.

Besides an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity, it is now known that sedentarism is also linked to an increased risk for various types of cancer, such as colorectal cancer, endometrial cancer, pancreatic cancer and the list goes on  (WHO, 2002).

But here’s the point… It’s never too late to get active. All physical activity may not be judged the same; but they all count.

Sitting has become the smoking of our generation.

Nilofer Merchant
A sedentary lifestyle is dangerous for your health and wellness.
“The best cure for one's bad tendencies is to see them in action in another person.” ― Alain de Botton

Top tips for quitting the most unhealthy behaviors

Here are the best tips for avoiding a sedentary lifestyle:

  • Find little ways to keep yourself active throughout the day.
  • Take a short walk, jug in place while you do other activities.
  • Use the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Set up a workout area at home.
  • Move while on the phone.
  • Play your favorite music and dance.
  • Stretch regularly.
  • Make it fun: dancing, play sports or enjoy nature.
  • Stand instead of sitting when doing some activities.
  • Make gradual changes to your routine. Small changes make a big difference overtime.
  • Include family and friends in your journey.
  • Consider using a device such as a smart watch to prompt you to get moving.
  • If you have a health condition that may limit your mobility, ask your health care provider for the best recommendations.

An important factor for improving sedentarism is to control the amount of time we spend in front of our screens. Read this article to discover the best tips for controlling screen time. SCREEN TIME FOR KIDS: 8 Tips To Win Full Control

Benefits of improving unhealthy behaviors

The personal wellness benefits of overcoming a sedentary lifestyle and becoming more physically active include:

  • Maintain a healthy weight .
  • Reduce the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.
  • Improves mental health (reduce depression symptoms).
  • Maintain your bone health (prevents osteoporosis).
  • Avoid risks for certain cancers like endometrial cancer, colorectal cancer, and breast cancer.
  • Increase your lifespan.

Read also: 20 Easy Ways to Increase Energy Levels

Factors  that influence the possibility of quitting unhealthy behaviors

The following factors will influence your chances of overcoming a sedentary lifestyle and becoming more active:

  • Belonging to a social group where physical activity is a part of everyday life.
  • Having a strong desire or motivation to become more active.
  • Willingness to try new physical activities.
  • Having the type of job that provides opportunity to be active throughout the day.
  • Having a supportive partner or exercise buddy who can encourage and support you in your goal.
  • Being able to afford the time and cost of becoming more active.
  • Community or built environment that facilitates physical activity opportunities.
  • Close proximity to local parks and trails, safe routes for walking and biking and well lit roads and sidewalks.
  • Having a long-term plan for keeping active.

Read more about the importance of having a healthy physical condition.

Unhealthy Behavior: Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol use disorder, ranges from mild to severe. Persons with alcohol use disorder are unable to control their alcohol use despite the chronic harmful mental, occupational or physical health damage.

According to the World Health Organization (2021), over 3 million deaths annually are because of the harmful use of alcohol.

Additionally, alcohol contributes to over 5% of the burden of disease worldwide and is the leading cause of disability and premature death in persons between the ages of 15 and 49 years.

In 2010, alcohol use disorders costed the U.S. a total of $249 billion.

who, 2021

The main economic costs included loss in workplace productivity (72%), health care expenditures (11%), and other costs due to alcohol-related crimes(10%) and losses due to driving under the influence (5%) (CDC, 2019).

Notably, to decrease the risk of harm, the daily consumption of alcohol should not exceed 1-2 drinks for men and 1 drink for women. A “drink” is defined as a 12 ounces beer, 5 ounces wine or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.

A more recent study has argued that the health hazards of alcohol are actually substantially higher with as little as 6 or more drinks per week (Dubois & Roumeliotis, 2022). Unfortunately, the risk is even greater for women.

Unfortunately, excessive alcohol use is associated with motor vehicular accidents, liver disease, cancers, health and behavioral problems etc. 

BTW, did you know that alcohol is linked to at least 7 different types of cancer?!

In fact, every time someone drinks excessively they put themselves at greater risk for developing liver disease such as cirrhosis or fatty liver disease.

The risk directly increases with consumption and it is preferable to not start drinking alcohol if you do not already (CDC, 2021).

Notably, men historically consumed more alcohol than women. However, this gap is becoming less significant. In fact, consumption of alcohol in women has increased by 83.7% from 2002 to 2013.

Additionally, females are starting to drink at a younger age. Although the underlying cause is definitely varied and not entirely known, the likely contributing factors are coping challenges and a cultural shift (Clopton, 2018).

Remember, less is more – particularly when it comes to alcohol.

Excessive alcohol use is one of the most unhealthy behaviors.
“Stay away from addictions in life or addictions will take you away from life.” ― Amit Kalantri

Top tips for avoiding unhealthy behaviors

Here are the best tips for quitting or at least decreasing alcohol consumption:

  • Explore the reasons for drinking. Is it for socialization, to escape reality or to have more fun etc.?
  • Track how much you drink daily/weekly.
  • Have a plan to drink less.
  • Work on coping and managing your emotions.
  • Ask your trusted friends and family for support.
  • Identify and avoid triggers like stress, depression, anger etc.
  • Keep healthy snacks to replace cravings.
  • Substitute or stay busy with enjoyable activities.
  • Journaling.
  • Professional support.

Benefits of improving unhealthy behaviors

There are numerous benefits of eliminating or decreasing unhealthy behaviors such as alcohol use disorders including:

  • Decreased risk for heart disease.
  • Increased HDL ‘good’ cholesterol levels.
  • Reduced liver damage from excessive drinking.
  • Have more money for savings.
  • No more hangovers (or the consequences associated with them).
  • Feel better emotionally, mentally and physically.
  • Increased self-esteem.
  • Decreased risk of cancer.
  • Greater incentive to eat healthy and exercise regularly.
  • Improved sleep pattern.
  • Improved energy levels throughout the day.

Factors that influence the possibility of quitting unhealthy behaviors

Unfortunately, some factors may make it more challenging to quit or decrease the use of alcohol including:

  • Gender.
  • Family history  of alcoholism.
  • Age.
  • Race/ethnicity.
  • Marital status.
  • Frequency/history of consumption.
  • Reasons for consumption of alcohol.
  • Lack of social support.

Unhealthy Behavior: Smoking

Tobacco kills about half of its users and results in excess of 8 million deaths annually (WHO, 2021). Notably, all forms of tobacco are harmful.

In fact, smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in the USA, causes numerous illnesses and contributes to increased poverty.

Smoking cigarettes is one of the most dangerous things you can do for your health. It causes cancer, heart disease, stroke and lung diseases like emphysema or chronic bronchitis – just to name a few!

As such, if you smoke already, quitting smoking is one of the best things that you can do for yourself right now. And if you don’t smoke yet – don’t start!

Smoking is one of the most unhealthy behaviors. In fact, it is the leading cause of preventable death.
“When quitting becomes routine, you won’t think twice about giving up the next time.”― Frank Sonnenberg

Top tips for quitting unhealthy behaviors

Now, let’s discuss some of the best tips for quitting smoking:

  • Get a reason or a motivation for quitting.
  • Don’t be dismayed if you had failed attempts at quitting before.
  • Acknowledge that changing unhealthy behaviors often require significant effort.
  • Think positive, have a plan.
  • Avoid triggers, increase your social support system and talk to your physician to decide if medication should be used to help you on the journey.
  • Medications such as nicotine gum, nicotine patch and other oral tablets can be very helpful. However, these will likely have side effects and may also have some dietary and lifestyle restrictions. But, if needed, they are definitely worth a try.
  • Realize that the desire to change means that you’ve already started the journey. So just keep going. Read more about the different states of behavioral change.

Benefits of improving unhealthy behaviors

The benefits of quitting smoking are numerous. They include:

  • No more burns on your fingers, clothes or furniture.
  • Decrease in body odor.
  • Increased sense of smell and taste.
  • Improved quality of life by reducing the risk of cancer, heart disease and lung disease.
  •  Stress reduction.
  • Less wrinkles and signs of premature aging.
  • Decreased risk of osteoporosis and hip fractures due to increased bone density.
  • Deeper, more relaxed breathing.
  • Improved lung function.
  • Being more energetic.
  • Weight gain and improved appetite.
  • Save money.

Factors that influence the possibility of quitting smoking

Factors that may influence the possibility of quitting smoking include:

  • Length of time smoking.
  • Amount you smoke per day.
  • Previous attempts to quit smoking.
  • Life circumstances.
  • Social support.
  • Whether or not you smoke at home.
  • The use of illicit drugs.
  • Family support.
  • Family members that are directly affected by your habit of smoking. For instance, having children with asthma.
  • Being diagnosed with a disease the is worsened by smoking.

Take this quick quiz to assess if you’re ready for behavioral change. 

Unhealthy Behavior: Chronic Stress

Stress is a quite subjective, normal response to situations and pressures.

Stress related disease is the leading cause of doctor visit in adults in the United States. In fact, 75-90 % of visits to the primary health care physician are stress-related problems.

The American institute of stress, 2022

This can be due to the direct or indirect effect that stress has on the body and on all dimensions of your personal wellness.

Additionally, stress can also lead to unhealthy behaviors such as alcohol consumption, addiction and smoking among many others.

Unfortunately, chronic stress puts the body in a constant state of high alert so it can be challenging to shut off this stress state even when there are no real threats.

This means that people are stuck with increased blood pressure, increased cortisol levels and overall inflammation throughout the body which leads to chronic disease over time if left untreated.

However, although stress may not be entirely avoidable, you can learn to manage it.

Excessive stress is a very unhealthy behavior
“Do not constantly spend your time complaining about a problem you may be having or may be up against, focus your time toward correcting the problem. Always remember, Time is value!” ― Victoria Addin

Top tips for avoiding unhealthy behaviors

The best tips for managing stress include:

  • Engage in regular physical exercise and yoga.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Have a purpose in life, or at least an aim to be working towards.
  • Be realistic, you will not get everything that you want so try prioritizing your goals and objectives as well as your values and accept those things you cannot change.
  • Practice time management, make to-do lists and learn how to say no.
  • Find out what makes you happy and do it often.
  • Take some time for yourself everyday.
  • Have a good support system of family and friends.
  • Seek help from your health care professional.

Benefits of improving unhealthy behaviors

There are numerous benefits of learning to successfully manage stress including:

  • Increased energy level.
  • More happiness and joy in life.
  • Improved moods.
  • Reduced blood pressure.
  • Decreased pain perception.
  • Lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and stroke.

Factors that influence the possibility of decreasing stress

Some factors may make it more challenging to decrease stress. These include:

  • Lack of work-life balance.
  • Severity/amount of stress experienced.
  • Unrealistic expectations from self and others.
  • Lack of social support system at work and home.
  • Comorbid conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders or substance abuse problems.
  • Length of time exposed to stressors.
  • Stress management or problem solving skills.

Get the best tips for coping with difficult situations.

Unhealthy Behavior: Bad eating habits and patterns

Eating is one of the most important daily activities. And, we often eat without even thinking about it.

However, although eating is essential for our survival, unhealthy eating habits and patterns are are significant risk factor for numerous chronic diseases.

Bad eating habits and patterns include skipping meals or cutting them short, high sugar intake, eating excessive calories and consuming more foods with high fat content.

Although some of these habits are hard to stop once they are formed, they can be changed through mindful food choices, planning ahead and staying active.

Another unhealthy behavior is bad eating habits
“The attention you give to your bad habits is the fountain from which they draw their strength.” ― Michael Bassey Johnson

Top tips for improving unhealthy behaviors

The best tips for improving bad eating habits and pattern include:

  • Eat more vegetables and fruits, whole grains and lean protein.
  • Limit processed foods that are high in calories, sodium or sugar.
  • Don’t skip meals because you may overeat later on.
  • Be aware of health claims made by food companies.
  • Avoid eating while watching TV or reading.
  • Create a healthy eating plan.
  • Eat slowly.
  • Stop eating when you are 80 % full.
  • Plan your meals and shop for healthy ingredients.
  • Eat breakfast.
  • Eat more natural food.
  • Increase fiber intake.

Related: Everything  you need to know about breakfast. 

Benefits of improving unhealthy behaviors

The health and personal wellness benefits of managing bad eating habits and patterns include:

  • Weight management.
  • Better control of diabetes.
  • Better cardiovascular health.
  • Healthier skin.
  • Healthy brain function.
  • Healthy teeth and gums.

Factors that influence the possibility of decreasing unhealthy eating habits and patterns

The following factors may directly or indirectly influence the possibility of improving your eating habits and patterns:

  • How you were raised to eat.
  • Age.
  • Socioeconomic status.
  • Stress levels and tolerance.
  • Genetic tendency.
  • Time constraints.
  • Availability of healthy food choices.
  • Knowledge about nutrition.
  • Current eating habits.
  • Social influences from family and peers.

Read more about the best foods to eat for a healthy diet   

Final words on the 5 most unhealthy behaviors to quit ASAP

Unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, excessive alcohol use, inactivity, chronic stress and poor eating habits can cause serious physical, social and psychological health problems.

We’ve covered the most unhealthy behaviors you should quit ASAP.  However, in order to quit these unhealthy behaviors you should be aware of how it will impact your health, plan ahead and have a good support system.

But more importantly, you must have an earnest, steadfast desire to quit. It’s not always easy to make these changes but if you are persistent you’ll surely reap the amazing rewards.

We hope this list of 5 most unhealthy behaviors to quit ASAP has been helpful in some way.

If you’ve got any thoughts on the blog post, let us know in the comments below.

“Losing will not always amount to a loss, sometimes you have to lose those toxic relationships and bad habits to create a space for better things.” ― Gift Gugu Mona

Related Posts

What are the best tips to achieve behavioral change?

The first step towards making change is to be aware of what you need to change.  As you begin to do that, also think about your motivations and reasons for wanting to make a change.

Then ask yourself:  “What am I willing or not willing to sacrifice in order to make this change happen?”   Also, ask yourself if quitting is worth it for you and what you can do in order to quit.

Next, decide on a plan of action and set your goals for the short term and long term.  Read more

What are some personal benefits of making behavioral changes?

Behavioral changes will not only give you many physical health benefits but also improve your productivity at work or school.

Actually, some benefits of behavioral changes are improved sleep quality, better concentration levels, improved self-esteem and personality.

Behavioral changes will also leave you feeling more empowered about your life choices, help lower the risk of heart attack and decrease stress levels and improve your relationship with others.

Finally, behavioral changes can also provide benefits to society because it reduces healthcare costs, decreases poverty and increases economic productivity.

Related: Why is personal productivity important.


CDC (2021) Alcohol and Public Health. Frequently Asked Questions

CDC: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2019) Excessive Drinking is Draining the U.S. Economy 

Clopton, J. (2018) Alcohol consumption among women is on the rise. 

Dubois, S & Roumeliotis, I (2022) More than 6 drinks a week leads to higher health risks, new report suggests – especially for women

Searing, L (2019) The Big Number: The average U.S. adult sits 6.5 hours a day. For teens, it’s even more.WHO (2021) Alcohol

The American Institute of Stress (2022) American’s #1 Health Problem

WHO (2002) Physical inactivity a leading cause of disease and disability, warns WHO.  

WHO (2021) Tobacco

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