12 Habits You Don't Realize Mess Up Your Mood

Like many things in life, your mood is something that should be completely within your control. Every one of your habits — even the smallest among them — ultimately contributes to how you feel each day. Barring very real conditions like depression and anxiety, typically when you experience an emotion you're not particularly fond of, you then have the choice on whether you're going to let it inspire you to change, or let it dictate the rest of your existence that day. Your overall disposition is not something that you have to just cope with, it's something you create and can adjust.

Take, for example, how strongly food creates your mood (chocolate = relaxation and reduced tension, FYI) or how well kids and families respond to routine and habitualness. It's why some of the most successful people in the world are usually strict with their routines (that often consist of the same activities/behaviors) and "geniuses" are often noted for being devoted to their day-to-day structures, however eccentric.

The point is: routine matters. It dictates your mood, which creates your daily experience, which ultimately culminates into what you accomplish and achieve and how well you perceive your general existence to be going — which are pretty big stakes to claim. The first step, however, is realizing that a lot of the seemingly-benign behaviors you engage in every day are actively holding you back. Here, 12 to start you off:

Manically Scheduling Every Hour, As Opposed To Just Setting "Start Times"

The reality is that you can't schedule your day down to the five minute mark, and you shouldn't want to. You're not a robot. All you'll do is end up feeling guilty that you're failing, when you're not at all. You can't create a livable schedule within perfectly assigned hourly intervals, but what you can do is decide to "start" at the same time each day. For example, no matter what time you get up (though you should try to leave yourself enough time for a stress-free morning) or what you have to accomplish before 9:45 a.m., you know that when that time arrives, you start working on whatever it is you have on your plate that day. Your body and mind will start to assimilate 9:45 a.m. with productiveness, and it will become easier and easier to just fall into a routine naturally. Like a too-strict diet that ultimately leaves you starving and 5 pounds heavier by the end, planning your time too strictly will likewise all but ensure you go off the rails.

Assuming That You're At The Whim Of Your Circumstances

People who don't assume responsibility for their minds and emotions live in metaphorical minefields: any one interaction with an annoying coworker or bounced check or mild inconvenience leaves you at perpetual risk for some day-debilitating mini-breakdown. The best way I can put it is this: your day is going as well as you decide it is. You're as affected by the things and people around you as you choose to be. If you don't wake up every day with that attitude, you're more than likely to assume that your mood is the creation of the things and people around you, rather than your perception.

Distancing Yourself From "Friends" By Gossiping About Other People In An Attempt To Bond

Gossiping (negatively) — especially about people you mutually know — is usually considered a way to bond with people, but it effectively accomplishes the opposite. Without realizing, you leave the conversation feeling self-conscious of what that friend could be judging about you, and less trusting of them overall. Your mood isn't just constructed by whether or not you interact with other people, but how you interact with them as well.

Taking Too Many Photos

When you're taking a photo of something, you're actively removed from the experience of it. You're thinking about documenting it, or how it will appear, as opposed to how you feel about it in the moment. It's usually what people reach to do when they aren't feeling like they're completely enjoying themselves (beyond a quick snap to remember the moment). People who view their lives through the glow of a screen are literally placing a filter between themselves and their experience. This isn't a sweeping generalization, of course. There are exceptions, but generally speaking: photos, nowadays, are less associated with "remembering the moment" and more to do with gaining people's attention online (even if it's all in our heads).

Seeking Comfort, Not Happiness

The scary truth about human beings is that we don't want to be happy — we want what we've known. We re-create relationship patterns from our childhoods because that's what we're used to. The feeling of stepping out of our comfort zones — especially into situations where we may feel more vulnerable, or a little hopeless because we haven't accomplished what we wanted to — isn't what we're actually after. Unless you're conscious of this, you'll self-sabotage or avoid what you really want because it feels less comfortable than the alternative.

Deriving Self-Esteem From External Sources

Unless your sense of self comes from a genuine, core place within you, your idea of worth shifts to being a product of how other people see you (or worse: how you think other people see you). We all need self-esteem, and the reality is that you never don't have it; you're just taking it from places that aren't healthy or honest or real. This is usually a byproduct of people who are afraid to be honest with themselves for some other reason. They can't face what their core, honest selves would want to change about their lives, so they can't connect to themselves at all.

Trying To Fix What's "Wrong" Without Fully Understanding It First

This usually looks like numbing, deflecting, avoiding, or ignoring under the asinine assumption that doing so will make it just "go away." The reality is that fully understanding a problem is also knowing the answer. The two aren't just interlinked — they are the same thing. You can't address a problem, or come up with a solution, until you're completely aware of what the problem is. So if you feel like you're trying to take care of [withstanding issue that you can't seem to overcome], it's usually not because you don't know the solution, but because you don't know what the true problem is in the first place.

Trying To Do Too Much In A Day

If you have to go home and spend nearly half of your free time worrying about work or working to keep up, you probably have too much on your plate. If you routinely make a list of things you should theoretically get done, and you rarely, if ever, close out on it, you most definitely have too much going on. The reality is that success isn't usually what happens when you take on mass quantities of work, but when you are able to do quality work within a time frame that also allows for, you know, life. You'll feel better if you can get a few things done completely as opposed to just getting a lot of things done a little — or leaving them for the next day.

Spending Money On Anything But Necessities And Memory-Making

You know the tired advice: spend your disposable income on experiences, not things. It's not always possible, but it does beg at something important. Focus your time on the necessities (keeping yourself well-fed and exercised) and on the meaningful (going out to dinner with loved ones, etc.) as opposed to spending your days going around collecting "things." Sure, it's sound financial advice, but it's also a matter of lifestyle. Take care of yourself in body, mind, and heart.

Waiting For Something Grandiose To Give Your Life Meaning; Disregarding The Magic Of The "Little Things"

We humans thrive on meaning. Good days are purposeful and bad days are pointless. Our biggest accomplishments mean something about us; our biggest failures, the same. Unless you're able to consistently latch yourself onto a greater, existential meaning for your life at all times – and believe it wholeheartedly – you're probably left with the rest of us, marinating in one heaping pile of "What's the point?" Well, the point is what you make it. The point is how much you can enjoy your daily life and be kind and do something that you're proud of. The meaning of your life will not be how many points on a checklist you can scratch off; you won't be around to count anyway. The meaning comes from how much of yourself you put into each day. And that, of course, is entirely on you.

Not Mastering Some Fundamental Self-Control

"Self control" as in, the ability to at least start on a project even when you aren't completely inspired. It's the ability to keep going though something else is more interesting, the ability to forego instant gratification in pursuit of something greater, and more worthwhile. These are fundamental, but they only work when they're balanced with letting yourself have a cookie and enjoy a night with your legs up watching Netflix. Mastering self-control is also knowing when to give in. It's a matter of where on the scale you fall.

Making Your "To Do" List Things To Complete, As Opposed To Things To Work On

If you are measuring your days by how much you "accomplish," you'll always come up short. Even if you cross 25 things off the proverbial "to do" list (... or the literal one) you could just as easily come up with 25 more if you wanted. Make your days about how much effort you put in, how proud you are of what you've done by the end. A thousand meaningless accomplishments hold no bearing in comparison to a few truly meaningful ones. That's an exaggeration for the sake of a point (let's hope you don't only accomplish three things at work in five months), but what it comes down to is: set yourself up to succeed by acknowledging effort a little more than you do result. You'll find that the momentum you build, and the confidence you gain, will propel you forward to getting it all done anyway.

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