We all make an effort to lead healthier lives by eating good food, drinking plenty of water, and keeping active. But there are a number of bad habits we all need to drop for good if we want to live truly happy and fulfilled lives, many of which tend to fall by the wayside. I'm not talking about cutting back on fast food or trying to get more sleep — those are obvious enough. There are some unhealthy habits so strongly engrained in our minds and our lives that we don't even know we're doing them; but their toxic side effects are there, and we're living the consequences each and every day.
I only became aware of my own bad habits within the last few years, when I did a serious inventory of my daily thoughts and actions and realized my life could be even better than it already was if I made a few changes to my behavior. This included spending less time around negative people (and being part of their negativity), removing myself from conversations that revolved around criticizing other people, and learning to be nicer to myself when it came to my own thoughts.
These might seem irrelevant compared to other bad habits, but don't underestimate their repercussions. Here are seven toxic habits we all need to get control of.
1. Talking About How Busy We Are
I'm so guilty of this, and even I'm annoyed with myself. "I'm so busy" is so in, right now. In fact, a report published in the Harvard Business Review has found that we've come to a place where we use one's level of busyness to determine status; and the busier you are, the more important you must be. You know what used to determine status? Leisure! Furthermore, this is definitely an American thing. Other cultures don't have these standards.
Mic presents another interesting thought: we intentionally jam pack our schedules with all kinds of stuff because we feel insecure about our leisure time. Constantly being occupied reassures us that we're being productive — even though that's not a guarantee.
The answer is a shift in our culture, a shift in the way we view "busy" versus "not busy," and perhaps striking a balance between the two. Working hard is something to be proud of; but you don't need to only work hard to be proud.
Quit using "busy" to determine your worth and the worth of others. There is plenty more in life that matters.
2. Flaking Out On People
It's rude, it's inconsiderate, and it makes you seem like much less of a reliable friend. And yet... we flake so much. Today's social media culture certainly does nothing to help the problem. As Psychology Today explains, it's now so easy to bail out of commitments at the last minute when all you have to do is push a button or send a message in response to an online invite or RSVP. And because there are so few negative consequences — no disappointing looks or irritated tones — we're tempted to do it again the next time.
Don't be fooled, though — an easy escape doesn't mean your friendships won't suffer because of it. What if the person or people you were planning to meet needed to make special arrangements after getting a head count (which included you)? What if you were supposed to split the cost of the festivities, but now everyone will have to pay more because of you? These things add up and speak volumes of how you view your relationships. Be honest with yourself: when you're thinking of committing to something, you likely already know whether you'll make a point of showing up. Don't make promises you willingly won't keep.
Being a flake shows you don't respect other people's time and efforts; and eventually, they might stop including you all together. Don't be that person. Friends are important.
3. Constant Gossiping
There are so many things to talk about on this gorgeous planet — love, art, politics, about 1,475,203 other things... So why, God, why do we get together and say nasty things about other people?
Gossip doesn't have to be negative, but nine times out of 10, it is. And if you don't think you suffer at the hands of your own gossip — that you shake off that negativity as soon as the conversation ends — you're wrong. Like drinking, like smoking, like drugs, toxic thoughts trigger negative chemical reactions in your body. Left ignored, they can spiral out of control and contribute to depression, loss of sleep, and more.
Plus, let's talk about the not-quite-so-scientific-but-still-really-important side effects: saying nasty things about people behind their back isn't nice. Doing so is more a reflection of you than them. Plus, everyone knows that one unwritten rule: If your friend is gossiping about someone to you, then they'll gossip about you to someone else. Also, gossiping doesn't exactly foster strong relationships: do you think your friend will open up to you knowing you're a huge gossip? Probs not.
Let's all try to be a little nicer to each other, even in private conversations, when no one else is around to hear.
4. Negative Self-Talk
Write this down: negative words negatively impact your brain and body — this is science. Psychology Today explains that if you were to be put in an fMRI machine and had the word "no" flashed in front of you for less than one second, dozens stress-producing hormones and neurotransmitters would suddenly be released. These can instantly interrupt your brain functioning, sense of logic, reasoning, memory, sleep, appetite, happiness, satisfaction, and communication.
From less than one second of "no."
Now, imagine ruminating on negative thoughts for minutes or hours of every single day. Next, imagine the collective effect over the course of a year or years.
When you think negative things, you're doing unknown damage to yourself that will harm you until you make a point of rewiring every thought to be positive and fulfilling. Remove from your vocabulary "no," "I can't," "I don't have enough," and every other negative phrase that indicates something bad or a lack of something. Seriously. Forget these words exist in your life.
5. Monopolizing The Conversation
I know somebody like this, and I stopped hanging out with her. Every moment of every conversation was about her life; and I finally realized that she doesn't care about me one bit. That's not a friendship. That's not any kind of relationship I want to have, period.
It's easy to get carried away with ourselves and do all the talking, and we might not even notice it. While we all need a friend to just listen every now and then, it's a two-way street. People who talk about nothing but themselves exhibit a common trait of narcissists, however subtle or inconspicuous it may seem. Does this mean they are narcissists? No. Does it make it OK? No.
Figuring out if you monopolize conversations is pretty simple: if you walk away from a conversation with a friend, ask yourself what you learned about them from this discussion. If you can't answer that, you might have a problem on your hands.
6. Showing Up Late
Tardiness might possibly be one of the most common pet peeves. While life sometimes gets in the way, and all of us are late at some point, constant tardiness says much more about you. A lot more...
Your constant lateness might reflect an attitude that says your time is more important or valuable than the time of the people you keep waiting. It might send a signal of a lack of intelligence and organization, because you didn't plan appropriately to get where you needed to be on time. A lot of it boils down to one thing: the commitment you were late to just didn't matter enough.
Any way you look at it, it's bad. We definitely need to cut this out.
7. Secretly Hoping Others Fail
It's called schadenfreude, and it's the enjoyment we feel at others' misfortunes. Science says we do it to make ourselves feel better, when we have low self-esteem or feel threatened by someone. Psychology Today adds another important characteristic of this concept: we perceive this person as deserving of whatever bad thing happened to them.
Like gossiping, like flaking, like tardiness, secretly hoping others fail (or finding enjoyment in their failure) says much of you and little of them. When you find yourself smiling because someone lost their job or got dumped or blew a huge interview, ask yourself these questions: Why does this make me happy? Why don't I want to see them succeed? Why do I hold against them that I think they deserve bad things?
Find a way to be happy for people's good times, and compassionate for their bad times. You'll be a more fulfilled person for it.