‘The most valuable skill or talent that you could ever develop is that of directing your thoughts toward what you want.’ – Abraham Hicks
Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing, and that includes bad habits that lead to unhappiness in your everyday waking life.
Despite what many of us may choose to believe, a life full of toxicity and negative feelings is not caused by bad luck, circumstance or even upbringing; it’s created by a cycle of bad habits programmed by our subconscious and sometimes even our conscious, waking mind.
These are habits we often don’t question or bring into our awareness very often and so they are destined to repeat themselves, day by day, hour by hour.
And it’s these little habits that have been conditioned or hard wired into our daily routine that yields such uncomfortable experiences and an overall unhappy life.
Bad habits are those continual practices that generally deteriorate the quality of your life; be it spiritually, mentally, physically or emotionally.
And with the constant buzz and chaos that is life, it becomes harder and harder to critically evaluate our choices and pinpoint what the issue is.
But let’s be clear, this isn’t a blame game.
I’m not here to tell you to ‘just be happy’ because we all know that rarely works short term, let alone for the rest of your life.
We all have bad habits present in our life that are hampering and ruining our happiness to some degree, but the first step in changing your life for the better and leading a happier life is to bring them to your attention so you can start to change them.
The good news? It is absolutely never too late to improve your own mental wellbeing, nor to fully eliminate hardwired habits.
In fact, it can take as little as 30 days to reprogram and cement a new habit into place!
To start breaking these bad habits, you’ll need to understand how one system in your brain in particular is programmed to effectively ‘block’ happiness from your life.
Let’s dive right into it, here are 9 habits to eliminate if you want to live a happy life.
9 Bad Habits to Ditch To Live a Happier Life Starting Today
1) WORRY & OVERTHINKING
I like to think about worrying as a rocking horse: you keep moving back and forth but it doesn’t get you anywhere fast.
Worrying and overthinking is a quick way to put yourself into a negative space, and not just in present either, but in the future too.
When you worry, you’re actually reacting to an entire chain of past events and emotions and projecting them onto the present and into the future.
We assume, though learned behaviour, that a similar situation in the past will lead to the same result in the future too.
It’s a similar reaction to if you burnt your hand on a hot iron when you were younger, and so therefore learnt not to put yourself back in that situation again.
Except, with worry, and overthinking things go a bit haywire; you tend to associate these negative feelings and emotions to pretty much anything in life.
You might be a ‘what if?’ person as a result. What if this happens, what if that…?
It’s a never-ending cycle that puts you into a bad mood instantly.
This constant state of anxiousness lends to poor life decisions and missing out on many opportunities.
But, worry is a learned response, which is good news, because that means it can be unlearnt.
To break the worry cycle, try this excellent exercise called ‘2 for 1’.
It’s a visualisation technique that grounds you in the here and now, and draws upon your imagination to reprogram the negative, self-limiting stories you tell yourself.
Next time you find yourself spinning into a worry cycle, bring those thoughts into your awareness and do the following exercise:
Step 1: Write down the facts of the event. What is actually happening right now in the present moment?
Step 2: Make a list of each thought or story that is triggered by this event. Let all of the negative thoughts come to surface.
Step 3: Cross out the first negative thought you have written down, and write down two possible positive thoughts or possible positive outcomes in its place.
Repeat this for each negative thought on the list, until all your negative thoughts are crossed out and replaced by positive ones.
Worry has no power when you see what could go right.
2) COMPARISON & ENVY
The problem with comparison is that it automatically leads to focusing your powerful energy on someone else’s life.
Instead of being your own conscious creator, and using your energy to conjure up something just as amazing or even more amazing than what the other person has, you use your power to become envious.
That doesn’t make much sense does it?
Envy will never get you to where you want.
Envy will never produce a positive outcome. Envy will never allow you lead a happy life.
It might motivate you to do more, but not for the right reasons.
You will be acting out of anger, fear and comparison, as opposed to love, joy and happiness.
We are far too quick to dismiss our own uniqueness and dim our light, ushering ourselves into someone else’s shadow.
We almost taunt ourselves with someone else’s gifts, tell the story that we cannot have it ourselves, and yet at the same time fail to realize we are powerful creators who can have be, or do anything we want.
For we are all the same. All equal under the eyes of the universe.
‘We have calcium in our bones, iron in our veins, carbon in our souls, and nitrogen in our brain. 93 percent stardust with souls made of flame, we are all just stars that have people names’ – Nikita gill
With the rise of social media fuelling more highlight reels than reality reels, it’s all too common to compare looks, success, beauty, finance, growth, career and so forth.
But behind those highlight reels and fake smiles, there is struggle, obstacles, sadness, disappointment, rejection, all the things us humans fear, yet must come to terms with.
Comparison is simply a self-destructive act, but know this, you cannot compare your life to one that is fake.
There have been times when a friend has messaged me on social media to say ‘you look so happy in that photo!’, and yet when I think back to what was actually happening around that time, I was actually very upset.
It was a forced smile. Because when people say ‘smile!’, you smile. Even if it’s not truly reflecting what’s going on in your internal environment right now.
I think we are too quick to believe that someone else always has it better. And that in itself is depressing.
We like to believe that the grass is always greener anywhere but where we are.
And whilst we believe that, that will always be the case. Whatever seeds we sow, must come to fruition. It’s a universal law.
With feelings of unworthiness, self-criticism, perfectionism, envy and anger rattling around in our brains, we will never progress and step into our own light. Not fully anyway.
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But the truth is, there is nothing that someone else has that you can’t have. Whatever you can imagine, you can create.
We are here to be creators, not followers.
You have moondust in your lungs, stars in your eyes, you’re a unique human being with infinite potential and value inside of you. You are loved. You deserve to be here.
You are literal magic, even when you think you are broken.
It’s just a bad, programmed habit getting in your way of happiness.
Break this habit by telling yourself it’s okay to be a work in progress. It’s okay to recognize this feeling of envy, of low self worth, of low self esteem. It’s okay to recognize it as long as we try to fix it. There is no right or wrong way to do this.
Remember: a person changes the state of his outer world by first changing the state of his inner world. Everything that comes to him or her from outside is the result of their own consciousness.
Try this Mantra to Help: The timing of my life is perfect. Everything is working out for my highest good.
There is nothing wrong right now. There is nothing to worry about. I live in my infinite truth and power at all times. I am not consumed by what I am not. I am a conscious creator.
There will never be another person like me, and that alone makes me wonderful, magnificent and special.
3) A BLACK & WHITE PERSPECTIVE
There is so much truth in what we consume we become.
Ever noticed how if you stay around negative people long enough, you will start to pick up their line of thinking.
And vice versa, if you only consume positive, uplifting content you will start to adopt that feel good feeling.
Our thoughts are the vehicles of our development, they are the key to whether we continue to grow expansively, or if we shrink and fall back into ourselves.
But why? Why does this happen? It’s got something to do with the Reticular Activating System.
The RAS is a network of neurons in your brainstem, and it’s a highly sophisticated filter that allows certain information into your brain, and filters out the rest.
The key thing to note here though is that this filtering process is done subconsciously.
But how does it know what to filter? Based on what you told it filter. Yes, you.
All of the experiences you’ve ever had, and more importantly the emotional reactions to those experiences shaped what the RAS allows into your brain.
The RAS seeks to reinforce whatever beliefs you’ve let in.
It screens through millions of pieces of data every second (around 14 million to be exact) through the parameters you have set, and allows more beliefs to form from those parameters.
So if you constantly feel unworthy or unlovable or you think people don’t like you at work………your RAS is urposefully shifting through all that information to point out every single piece of evidence that validates that belief. All day. Every day.
Herein lies the problem: it doesn’t mean that belief, or story you keep telling yourself is correct.
You could have a very black and white perspective. For example, let’s say from a young age, you wanted to be an artist.
One day in an art class, you decided to draw a tiger. You had a clear vision for what you wanted your tiger to look like, and believed you could do it.
Then, your art teacher comes along and says, ‘that’s a nice Bobcat, (your name here)!’.
Now, depending on your programmed belief system this comment could:
- Be taken as a compliment and brushed off as the teacher’s misconception of the artwork
- Confirm that a little more practice is needed, but it’s not the end of the world for your career
- Reinforce a belief that you’re ‘not meant to be an artist’
Which one do you think most people would automatically assume is correct? Ding. Ding. Ding. Yes, option C.
Option A would have trained the RAS to think positively, option B would train the brain to think optimistically, but option C creates or reinforces a negative belief that isn’t true.
Even if the teacher said the artwork was terrible, it doesn’t mean it is.
But, the RAS will seek out any piece of information to keep your beliefs in place.
It’s not because your brain hates you, it’s because it’s your brain would go into melt down if it had to process 14 million pieces of data every second.
Therefore, the RAS takes the path of least resistance. The path of least resistance would be no change.
No change = no effort.
The RAS can be programmed from a young age, and can be built from parental assumptions, challenges, criticisms, insecurities, anxiety, and fear of the unknown. Instead of looking at your life through a black and white lens, try to look at each and every situation objectively.
Don’t assume the first thing your brain tells you about this scenario is true, remember it’s been programmed for quick responses.
Like in the example above, try to think of other ways of looking at each experience in your life. It’s a quick way to shake up your mental beliefs and program something new.
Being mindful about how you frame a situation, be it bad, or good is a good way to determine what state your RAS is in.
- My voice doesn’t matter—Your voice might be exactly what someone needs to hear.
- My story isn’t amazing enough to share—The world needs to hear your unique story.
- Everything has been done already—you are allowed to add yourself to the pile.
- I’m not good enough—You are always enough, and your fear doesn’t change that.
4) ADOPTING UNHEALTHY ROUTINES
We are what we repeatedly do; excellence is not an act but a habit.
Whilst it’s good to shake up your routine every now and then for the sake of your sanity, the routine we put into practice every day plays a huge impact on our general everyday happiness.
Most times, we fail to adopt positive practices.
Instead, we practice bad habits like scrolling through social media for 30 minutes before getting up, burying emotions, bingeing on junk food, not drinking enough water, wasteful spending.
There’s a reason why the most successful and happy people in the world have a stable morning routine.
The quality of one sets the tone for the day, and ultimately the quality of the rest of your life if you think about it. Life is just a series of days strung together. We never know truly how many we’ve got.
These choices as little as they seem can greatly influence our lives, waking up and tackling something important such as a mental health check in could be just what’s needed to start your day.
Imagine what kind of place your life could be in if you adopted a routine and stuck with it for just a month!
Start with a bare skeleton routine, and slowly add more ‘tasks’ as you go along.
I’ll stress that they do NOT need to be ‘heavy, action’ based tasks.
They could be 5 minutes of Yoga, drink a cup of water, meditate; not necessarily ‘tackle my whole to-do list within the first hour of waking up’. That would be insane, mightily productive, but insane!
Basic Morning Routine To Try:
- Change alarm to something pleasant
- Wake up 1 hour earlier than usual
- Drink 1 cup of water right after waking
- Avoid email or messages until ‘work time’
- Keep a gratitude journal, and note one thing you’re grateful for
- Practice 5-10 minutes of Yoga or meditation
- Eat a healthy, balanced breakfast
- Listen to a productive, mood boosting podcast on your commute
Basic Evening Routine to Try:
- Wear blue light glasses when working on screens to make it easier to fall asleep
- Write down what you’re grateful for
- Turn off phone an hour before bed
- Write your to-do list for tomorrow
- Read a few pages of something uplifting
- Listen to positive affirmations on repeat
- Do a relaxing body-scanned meditation.
- Sleep in a darkened room, ideally with black out curtains.
To some this might feel like micromanaging every aspect of our lives, but this is not the effect we are looking for.
Sometimes to feel more relaxed to need to do things to get us into that state of mind, which then allows us to be in a state of non-resistance or free flow throughout the rest of the day.
We know we cannot, nor would we want to control everything in our lives. There’s magic in the unexpected!
5) FEARING YOUR OWN AUTHENTIC SELF
Have you ever had an idea that was so different to what is currently out there, but you were worried to implement it because you fear it won’t drive results? That’s what struggling to be authentic can look like.
A fear of change because it’s different and so you worry what others would think of you.
Struggling to be true to yourself can also take shape in the form of:
- You feel like you’re living someone else’s life and don’t know how to stop
- Or, you rarely stop to acknowledge how you feel at all
- You want to be liked by others and so cross your own comfort boundaries (not the good kind)
- You sabotage your own ideas because you worry they won’t be successful because they’re different
- You seek external validation over internal understanding and self-love
- You ignore your intuition or maybe can’t sense it anymore
- You realize you don’t really know who you are
- You internalize other people’s criticism and take dislike to heart
- You find yourself morphing into other people’s ideals
It shouldn’t really be hard to be authentic, but it IS due to societal and even primal conditioning.
Humans are naturally drawn to mimicking behaviour to fit in, it goes back to our origins of living in ‘packs’ or ‘clusters’ whereby we needed to live in a group and be accepted by that group to survive.
Our need to be liked is effectively hardwired into our primal brain; it’s a primitive instinct playing out in a modern world.
Navigating this minefield can take a lot of reprogramming.
Often, you will slip back into old habits before you discover your authenticity again.
Check in within yourself every time you make a big decision; ask if it’s truly what you want.
If not, you might have a dread feeling in the pit of your stomach or a sinking feeling.
You might also procrastinate and put if off, deep down knowing it’s not who you are.
When you catch yourself being inauthentic to who you really are, take a deep breath, question the action and thought, and pivot.
Realign to your true self little by little.
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6) BEING A PERFECTIONIST
*raises hand* This is one I struggled with for years. I was a true perfectionist.
Everything had to be perfect, otherwise I wouldn’t start it. Yes, really.
But as the years passed by, I think I realized that perfection just drove me further into the ground.
Acting from a point of perfection is impossible when you think about it; to someone, somewhere, whatever you do will never be enough.
Even within yourself, you may never truly achieve ‘perfection’ because your idea of perfection is unattainable.
Perfectionism says do more or do better, whereas self-compassion says you’re doing the best you can and it’s enough.
Perfectionism says everyone has to like you, self-compassion says you only have to like yourself.
Perfectionism says you absolutely can’t mess up, self-compassion says mistakes are normal and encouraged.
Perfectionism says imperfection is bad, self-compassion says imperfection is the only option.
Perfectionism says our worth depends on your success, self-compassion says your natural birth right in abundance and success so there is no worth to be placed on it.
If left unchecked, perfectionism will lead you into a state of ‘analysis-paralysis’, a state of inaction due to the fear of failure, but if you don’t move, isn’t than inherently failure in itself?
‘A ship that is docked cannot be steered. It must be in open waters to be steered in the right direction’.
Perfectionism is only a limit you’ve placed on yourself.
No-one is holding you to it. No-one is expecting that kind of dedication from you.
Entrepreneurs around the world will give you the advice of ‘if you’re going to fail, fail fast’, why? Because failure is inevitable.
It’s a part of every learning curve.
If you don’t fail, you’re not learning anything new, nor are you stepping out of your comfort zone. Realize that nobody gets anything rights first time!
- Walt Disney’s first animation studio called Laugh O’ Gram went bankrupt. He was told he had no imagination, and lacked creativity. He became the 20th century’s most treasured creative geniuses.
- Oprah was dropped from her job as a news anchor because she was ‘not fit for television’.
- Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. He was told he wasn’t good enough to play.
Failure isn’t just something that happens, it’s an experience to be treasured.
It fuels our desire to keep pushing, to keep going, to pivot and find a new path.
To be happy, we need to let imperfection drive our decisions.
You end up cheating no-one but yourself. Procrastination goes hand in hand with perfectionism.
It’s not because you’re lazy, but rather you procrastinate because of a fear of failure or you have a preconceived idea of how the task will turn out.
You might believe the task will be hard, so you put it off.
You might believe it will be too complex to understand or too time consuming, so you again put it off.
Instead of cutting down your chore list, you skim your emails or social surf, endlessly browsing for a way out of doing that task.
But, you end up cheating no-one but yourself.
The task is still there looking just as *pretty* as it was before you procrastinated.
Except 2 hours have passed, and you’ve got nothing to show for it. You’re hooked on the proverbial fence of distraction.
Fortunately, you’re not alone. Around 20% of the population identify as chronic procrastinators, people who constantly put things off until there is a fast approaching deadline.
You’ll be surprised just how much happier you’d be if you didn’t procrastinate. Even your brain agrees.
When you complete a task, no matter how small, your brain rewards you with a slight increase in dopamine and serotonin, aka the feel good hormones.
To kick my procrastination habit, I started to chunk tasks down into many (and I mean, many) micro tasks; so small they would only take 5-10 minutes each to complete.
This meant more ticks on my to-do list and more chemical signals from my brain that I was doing ‘great’! Try it for 2 weeks and see the difference.
8) FAILING TO FORGIVE YOURSELF
Mistakes are a part of life. Learning to laugh when things go wrong, and fall apart can become your ultimate self-care weapon.
We’ve already proven that worrying and overthinking will not change the outcomes of these situations, neither will beating yourself up or holding grudges.
To allow space for the new to be ushered in we must make space for the old to leave, this includes any mistakes you have made in the past.
Committing to a life of growth isn’t easy, but harbouring onto toxic emotions will only mess with your mental state and bring more chaos and imbalance into your life.
Instead, validate your feelings, acknowledge your mistakes, grow from a place of self-love, take responsibility, take the lessons with you and make amends where possible.
9) LACK OF GRATITUDE
Being grateful for what you have is your way of telling the universe, ‘hey, I’m so thankful for this, this and this in my life, I want more of it, please send it my way’.
By focusing on the positive things in your life, and what you are truly grateful for, you are pivoting your line of focus.
Even if it’s for a few moments a day, this subtle change in energy can begin to attract more positive experiences into your life.
A recent study also found that people who show more gratitude have higher neural sensitivity in the area of the brain associated with learning and decision making.
Over time, practicing gratitude becomes more habitual than forced, and it can help you feel more warmth and love toward others.
A SPECIAL MESSAGE FOR YOU
I’m so happy you made it to the end. I hope bringing these bad habits into your awareness will help you to eliminate them and continue on your journey of personal development and self-reflection.
At all times, you absolutely have the power to create what you desire, and though change might not come right this minute, know it will come.
With time and continual effort, any habit can be reversed, some within as little as 30 days.
I hope this has helped you gain some clarity and perhaps even some emotional relief on things that have been weighing you down. Here’s to a happier, more abundant life!
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