Just because you are in a good place in life doesn't always mean you'll feel good, and sometimes, when life is feeling pretty crummy, you can weirdly feel okay. How we handle things can dictate our mental state, and there are a number of habits that can make you feel like life is worse than it really is. We always talk about what habits to adopt if you want to feel happier or less stressed, but sometimes it's good to flip things around and try to ditch those habits that can actually make everything seem more negative.
"Some habits make us feel worse about things because they either focus on the negative, or they are bad for us, and we know it," says Nikki Martinez, Psy.D., LCPC over email. "We know we should be doing the opposite of what we are doing, so it makes us feel worse about ourselves. This typically triggers a negative cycle where we feel bad about ourselves and continue the behaviors that support that feeling and line of thinking."
The first step to breaking the cycle is identifying what habits are putting an unnecessary damper on your life. Here are 11 habits that can make you feel like life is worse than it really is.
1Looking At Social Media
Research from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that the more people use social media, the more likely they are to feel depressed. "People tend to look at their news feed and falsely believe that other people's lives are better than theirs," says psychologist Deborah E. Dyer, Ph.D. over email. "This is not the case. People don't post when they had a fight with their husband, or when they were up all night with their kid who was vomiting, or that the adjustable rate on their mortgage went up and they can't afford to pay it any longer."
2Watching TV For Hours On End
Sometimes a full day of Netflix is necessary, but if binge watching becomes a regular habit, it can actually make you feel worse than you began. "Binge watching TV may feel good in the moment but it amounts to a significant time waster, and the short term relief of having caught up on the storyline isn't enough to make up for the work left undone," says Dyer. "The awareness that other things still need to be done create a thought pattern of feeling disorganized or unaccomplished. This can lead to more self-criticism."
3Not Getting Enough Sleep
No one feels their best when they're tired, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that lack of sleep can make you feel depressed or anxious, according to WebMD. "Sleep is an essential physiological process that does so much for us that is restorative, and if we are chronically getting less than what our body requires, it will affect our mind and body," says psychologist Marni Amsellem, Ph.D over email. "You may feel chronically unrested, fatigued, or irritable and may have some difficulty focusing, which reinforces all of the negative emotions and thoughts."
"When you worry about something before it happens, it sets your mind up for all sorts of negativity," says Amsellem. "For many people, this becomes a regular and automatic way of thinking about a new situation. Habitually thinking of scenarios in which things can go wrong can lead to chronic anxiety, which can be extremely uncomfortable and is completely avoidable if you learn ways to manage negative anticipatory thoughts."
Having goals and holding yourself accountable is healthy to get tasks accomplished and do good work, but putting too much pressure on yourself to be perfect can take a toll on your mental health. "Too much perfectionism can hold you back because nothing is ever good enough," says psychologist and life coach Jacqueline Julien over email. "This can also lead to anxiety and feeling like you have to keep up pretenses of always being perfect."
6Spending Too Much Time Alone
We all need some alone time, but too much of it can make life feel pretty crummy. Loneliness can increase your risk for depression, raise your stress hormone levels, and even have a negative impact on sleep, according to multiple studies. "Social support is incredibly important for mental health," says psychotherapist Matt Traube, MFT over email. "Often when people aren’t feeling their best, they don’t want to be around others, and then they end up limiting their social support and feeling even worse."
7Suppressing Your Emotions
"Bottling up emotions may seem like an effective immediate solution, but ultimately, we sacrifice our authenticity," says Traube. "If you are upset, avoiding the feelings can cause more emotional distress. Learning how to safely address your feelings can increase a sense of control and decrease emotional discomfort."
8Drinking Too Much
"Obviously, alcohol overdone has it's own consequences," says Dyer. "Feeling ill is one thing. Possibly having to account for bad behavior while intoxicated can have all sorts of of consequences." Too much alcohol can affect your serotonin levels, which can worsen anxiety and even cause you to feel anxious once the alcohol has worn off, according to Healthline.
9Eating To Deal With Stress
Reaching for your favorite candy bar after a bad day can feel really good, but unfortunately, making it a habit to use food to cope with negative feelings can actually make your negative experiences worse. A study from the journal Public Health Nutrition found that the more junk food study participants ate, the more likely they were to be depressed. "If food is a habit that is used to reduce stress or soothe hurt feelings, it's filling a void temporarily, but not actually resolving anything or expressing feelings," says Dyer.
You would think multi-tasking would help you kill two birds with one stone, but it turns out, multi-tasking isn't actually a thing. When you "multi-task," your brain is actually just switching back from one task to another. This can lead to less productivity, more errors, and less perception, according to multiple studies. "It seems like a good idea to be able to get as many things done at one time as we can," says Julien. "However, most of the time when we multitask we end up letting things slip through the cracks or not doing our best job."
11Getting Hung Up On A Feeling
Feeling down at some point in your life doesn't mean you're going to feel that way forever. "When we get too singular focused, we lose site of the big picture," says Melissa Divaris Thompson, LMFT over email. "For example, if we are having a strong negative emotion, we need to remember that at some point it will pass. We get focused on our lives in a small singular way and we lose sight that things — including emotional states — change."