The quality of your life is largely determined by your habits, which comprise a significant portion of your daily behavior. Given their importance, let’s discuss some of the worst bad habits you can have (and what to do about them):
1. Believing “I am who I am”
Growth is a defining component of health. In nature, healthy plants and animals alike grow bigger until maturity. When an organism is unhealthy or sick, it stops growing. The life of a person is the same way.
Healthy people learn, improve, and change over time. Unhealthy people tend to believe that life is static, that they are static. Their belief that they can’t change and grow ensures that they don’t. This habitual way of thinking blocks ideas of positive change before they have a chance to come to fruition. It’s simple: to be healthy, you must first believe you can grow.
2. Being (habitually) controlled by negative spirals
Life is greatly defined by spirals and momentum, both positive and negative. Successful and healthy people are often in positive spirals. It’s important to note that this isn’t just because “they’re lucky,” but because they habitually thwart negative spirals and nurture positive spirals.
Unhealthy people don’t know how to stop a negative spiral before it starts or climb out of one when it does. Most of them rely on motivation to pull them out, but in this “low” state of mind, motivation rarely comes, which keeps them stuck in their spirals of laziness or depression. It becomes a habitual cycle of pain.
The way out of this is with small steps. Two years ago, I was in a laziness spiral. I busted free by starting a mini habit of one push-up a day, and 2 years later I have a six pack and I’m in great shape. At the low point in my laziness spiral, I could not motivate myself to do a single 30-minute workout, but I could do one push-up, and that small step sparked further small steps. That day, it turned into a 30-minute workout. Over time, it has developed into a positive upward spiral of fitness!
3. Going it alone
Introverts, you still need other people. Humans are social beings, and one of our basic needs is to feel loved. Unhealthy people isolate themselves for various reasons, but the effect is always negative. This is not to say that introverts are unhealthier than extraverts—we need varying amounts of social contact—but that it’s unhealthy when social interaction is at an extreme low or nonexistent.
When you spend time with others, it broadens your perspective, helps you relate to others, and makes you feel connected to the world.
- This study found a correlation between social isolation/loneliness and all-cause mortality.
- This study found that small talk with strangers can possibly make us happier.
- But another study found that deeper conversations make us happier than small talk, so the deeper the better.
It seems that our social lives have a direct impact on our vitality and well-being.
4. Never saying “no”
Saying no is not a negative thing. The people who can’t say no are really the only ones who can’t say yes. Because when you say yes to everything, you’re essentially sacrificing your choosing ability.
Being a “yes (wo)man” is caused by a few things, but habit is the engine that drives it. When the familiar context arrives of someone asking you a question with an expectation to hear you respond in the positive, you might say yes as if it’s not a choice. And if it gets to this habitual level, it’s not a choice anymore.
This is a particularly destructive habit as it puts you at the mercy of others’ expectations and desires for you, and nothing is more frustrating than losing control of your life.
5. Manipulating others
A common, unhealthy practice around the world is manipulation. People do it to friends, family, and colleagues, and they don’t always even realize it.
Manipulation is a poor substitute for sincerity. For a crude example, say you want someone to pass the mustard. Instead of asking someone to pass the mustard, you’d say, “ugh, the mustard is too far away.” The aim of this comment would be to make someone feel bad for you (or feel guilty for hoarding the mustard), which would then motivate them to pass you the mustard.
When manipulation becomes a habitual way of dealing with people, it causes a lot of problems that can be distilled into one phrase—unhealthy relationships. Be sincere with people. If you need something, ask for it directly; compared to manipulation, this is simple to do and yields better results.
If you want to create healthy new habits and traditional techniques haven’t worked, take a look at my best-selling Mini Habits book. “Mini Habits” covers the science of change, explains in depth why typical strategies fail, and shows you whether using willpower or motivation is more reliable basis for change. It will answer your questions like, “How can one push-up a day help me at all?” The book will also provide a step-by-step guide to show you how many mini habits to pursue at once (yes, you can have more than one), how to track them, and all the pitfalls you’ll want to avoid to guarantee your success.
I’m Stephen Guise. To hear from me each Tuesday morning about habit-formation, focusing, and self-mastery (and to claim my anti-stress book and desktop wallpaper set), join Deep Existence.