Habits and Addictions – Exploring the Literal Meaning

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Lisa wakes up at 5:00 A.M every morning without fail and goes for her early morning run.  The day this routine is not followed, she remains irritated almost the whole day, finding it difficult to even concentrate on work.  Although, she is aware of this behaviour of hers, it is still uncontrollable.  Most of the arguments she has had in her office or with friends have surprisingly occurred on her ‘rest’ days.

Before she began running, she admitted to being impulsive with a short temper. However, since she started this ritual of running and yoga, things seems to have been getting better except for those few days when they revert to their original ways especially when she skips the run.

Jitin on the other hand, a regular smoker finishes more than 2 packets in a day.  Smoking for him began in college where as a part of the group, he submitted to the group’s unspoken congregation norms.  10 years have passed since his graduation but he is still holds onto it even though the group or the group norms no longer exist.  What used to be a fag in a day or two has now become 2 packets but the routine is still oblivious to his conscious attention.

Which amongst the two would you pick as a Habit and which one do you think is an addiction.


Habit originated from the Latin word habitus meaning dress or appearance.  Initially, the word was a way to describe someone’s clothing.  Just as clothing used to be a way to identify the status of an individual in those early days, habits nowadays is a ‘heuristic’ to ascertain people’s personality.

What one does on a regular basis without much conscious effort becomes a habit.  A multitude of these habits combines and shapes our personality as well as our character.


The word initially meant to attach.  The reason for attachment could be anything – good or bad even forced attachment or attachment out of one’s choice.  It also meant devoting oneself to another person, cause or pursuit.

The word however acquired negative connotations after it was used to describe addiction to various forms of drugs, alcohol and even gambling.

Habits and Addictions

We tend to use words like positive habits to identify patterns or routines, which are good for us.  This may be running, jogging, reading, writing or even sleeping for 8 hours a day.

However, when we indulge in oversleeping or refrain from physical activities preferring to eat more then to exercise often and over indulge in actions like excess usage of internet or mobile or even TV, we generally refer to it as an addiction which itself implies it’s bad for us.

Although, originally addiction was meant to be used to describe a positive predilection for something, it somehow changed later to invoke negative consequences especially in describing behaviour related to excess usage of psychedelic drugs and alcohol abuse.

Clarifying the Meanings

William Glasser a psychiatrist introduced the use of word addiction in a positive way describing behaviors like physical exercise, reading, practicing yoga, meditation etc. as positive addictions.

Performing these activities soothes and relaxes our body as brain releases pleasure hormones like dopamine and serotonin, which make the activity addictive wanting us to repeat it often.  He referred to the pleasurable mental state as addiction.

People get addicted to travel or even dancing.


Studies on Addiction

Targhetta conducted a study on 1129 tango dancers; he himself being an accomplished tango dancer understood the intricacies of the study.  Of these 1129 dancers, 34% reported having strong cravings while 20% describes symptoms of physical withdrawal.

The behaviour in this case though was more of a positive addiction than a negative one.

Although, we are forced to use the prefix – positive or negative before the word addiction now as the colloquial usage of the word implies adverse behaviour, which leads to negative results.


Although, the same usage just a few centuries ago in itself implied positive behaviour.


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